The SC takes on abuse of power - Hindustan Times
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The SC takes on abuse of power

ByHT Editorial
Aug 10, 2021 07:59 PM IST

By disallowing states to withdraw criminal cases against legislators, the Supreme Court has done well

In a significant order on Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a set of clear instructions to counter the stark and growing criminalisation of Indian politics, the reluctance of political regimes to take on this threat, the misuse of political power to brush away such cases, and the inordinate delay that makes justice not just elusive but often impossible to achieve. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI), NV Ramana, has disallowed states from withdrawing criminal cases against Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), without the approval of the corresponding high court. The court has also said that trial judges, presiding over such cases, should continue in their posts — in the backdrop of the often expedient transfer of such judges when they turn out to be less than pliant to political interference. It has pulled up the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for failing to submit a status report on details of cases the agency is pursuing against elected representatives and gave it a “last chance” to do so. And it has indicated that a special bench may be constituted to monitor and ensure the expedited conclusion of such cases within a year of charges being framed.

By pointing to the need for public and timely disclosure of criminal antecedents, quick disposal of cases, and instituting checks to ensure that political interference does not lead to erosion of law, the court is seeking to ensure a healthier democracy. (HT Archive) PREMIUM
By pointing to the need for public and timely disclosure of criminal antecedents, quick disposal of cases, and instituting checks to ensure that political interference does not lead to erosion of law, the court is seeking to ensure a healthier democracy. (HT Archive)

Also Read | When the political class unites

The relationship between politics and law is complicated in India. In theory, no one, irrespective of status or power, can evade the law. But as political scientist Milan Vaishnav’s work has shown, due to both an abundance of supply and demand in the political marketplace, those with criminal records fight elections — and often win. Political parties also instigate riots to polarise the electorate for political benefit, even if it means inviting criminal charges. When in power, parties have a vested interest in blocking such cases from proceeding, offering protection to leaders in return for continued loyalty. As the amicus curiae’s findings showed, a range of states — Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand — have either withdrawn or are seeking to withdraw cases against legislators. This makes a mockery of the rule of law; ensures impunity, for there is no punishment for crime and wrongdoing; and makes the electoral competition unfair.

By pointing to the need for public and timely disclosure of criminal antecedents, quick disposal of cases, and instituting checks to ensure that political interference does not lead to erosion of law, the court is seeking to ensure a healthier democracy. The failure of the legislative and executive branches makes it incumbent on the judiciary to continue doing so.

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