Centre for timely disposal of cases against legislators
The statement -- made by solicitor general Tushar Mehta to a three-judge bench headed by justice NV Ramana -- came after a report submitted by a court-appointed amicus curiae in a public interest litigation (PIL) matter showed that 2,556 legislators from Parliament and state assemblies were involved in about 4,442 pending criminal cases across the country.Updated: Sep 17, 2020 05:34 IST
The Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it supported the timebound disposal of criminal cases against sitting and former legislators, and stressed that all such matters must reach their “logical conclusion”.
The statement -- made by solicitor general Tushar Mehta to a three-judge bench headed by justice NV Ramana -- came after a report submitted by a court-appointed amicus curiae in a public interest litigation (PIL) matter showed that 2,556 legislators from Parliament and state assemblies were involved in about 4,442 pending criminal cases across the country.
In addition to these cases,the report by senior advocate Vijay Hansaria suggested 175 other pending cases fell under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act and 14 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against serving and former lawmakers across various courts.
Of the total cases, the report said that 413 are punishable with life imprisonment and 174 sitting MPs/MLAs are accused in them. In 52 cases, high courts have stayed trials.
Hansaria was appointed the amicus after a PIL filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwini Upadhyay demanded the fast-tracking of trials against politicians, and life bans from contesting elections on those who were convicted.
“Principally, the central government is of the view that all cases against elected representatives must be concluded in a timebound manner. If there is a stay order by any high court, the same should be directed to be decided within one month. But if any central investigating agency is not proceeding with the case without any stay order in place, we will take it up at our end and file a report. All trials must reach their logical conclusion,” Mehta told the bench, also comprising justices Surya Kant and Hrishikesh Roy.
The bench asked Mehta for details of cases probed by central agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), and sought to know their status.
“In some cases it is noted that CBI, ED register a first information report (FIR) and thereafter there is no enquiry or prosecution. The sword is kept hanging on the accused and even arrest warrants are not issued,” the bench observed.
While a response from the court is still pending on the issue of a bar on contesting elections, the court reserved orders on the limited question of steps needed to expedite trials.
Hansaria said in his report that there are only 12 special courts in the country to exclusively handle cases against legislators, gave a district-wise split of pending criminal cases in the country, and suggested a slew of measure for speedy trials.
These included asking the chief justices of the high courts to create a blueprint for establishing more such courts; trials to be concluded within a year with priority to cases involving sitting legislators over those involving former legislators; no adjournment except in rare and exceptional circumstances; and fixed two-year tenures for judicial officers heading these special courts.
Mehta told the court that the burden of establishing additional special courts should not rest on the Centre, which is releasing funds to states for judicial infrastructure.
The bench remarked, “Are you (Centre) serious in completing trial in a timebound manner. Then all these concerns are minor issues. We are reserving orders and giving liberty to chief justices of high courts to submit a blueprint on how many courts are needed. We will direct states to furnish utilisation certificate on the Central funds sanctioned to them for the constructing additional courts.”