More than 1,000 pending cases, three judges and two public prosecutors.
That’s how skewed the ratio is in special courts conducting trials in anti-corruption cases lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“Then why should the accused not be discharged?” asked Justice J.N. Patel who was hearing a petition filed by advocate I.P. Bagaria in the Bombay High Court.
Bagaria has challenged the recent decrease in the number of courts presided over by special CBI judges from five to three. This was done even as the number of pending cases stood at over 1,000 since 1983.
The high court has asked the central government to file an affidavit within three weeks about what it proposes to do to fill up vacancies of judges and prosecutors.
“I have written to the Directorate of Public Prosecutors,” Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambata told the court. “We will soon take steps to appoint prosecutors.”
Justice Patel said the backlog only gets worse if cases are handed over to the CBI. “Every second petition wants case to be transferred to the CBI,” said Justice Patel.
Bagaria argued that there were over 1,000 cases pending in the CBI court alone.
“One of them was lodged way back in 1971… With one court functioning without proper government notification, the trial process can be vitiated… people like Abdul Karim Telgi (mastermind of the multi-crore fake stamp paper scam) could go scot-free,” argued Bagaria.
HC advocate Nitin Jamdar said the government had issued a notification on October 9 designating all 60 city civil and sessions judges as special judges.
As per this notification, they could try cases under the special Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
“We will soon follow the process to designate these judges as special judges to try cases under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act and Anti-Corruption too,” said Jamdar.
Bagaria’s petition said five special courts for anti-corruption cases initiated by the state had been reduced to four.
Jamdar said distribution and assignment of cases in the special courts were in disarray.