Criminal cases against lawmakers: SC wants 12 special fast-track courts by March 2018
The Centre has framed a scheme to set up 12 special courts to fast-track criminal cases pending against MPs and MLAs.india Updated: Dec 15, 2017 08:33 IST
The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that the 12 special courts proposed to fast-track criminal cases against lawmakers should start functioning by March next year, giving a nod to a scheme framed by the Centre.
A bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha told additional solicitor general ANS Nadkarni the funds earmarked for the courts should be allocated proportionately to the states where the courts are planned to be located.
“Immediately after the allocation, the state governments in consultation with the respective chief justice of the high court will set up the court so that it starts functioning by March 1, 2018,” the bench said.
In 2014, as many as 1,581 lawmakers—both members of parliament (MPs) and members of legislative assemblies (MLAs)--were facing prosecution in 13,500 cases.
The Centre in an affidavit told the top court on Tuesday that Rs 7.8 crore was earmarked for the scheme after taking into account the revised pay scales of judges in accordance with the recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission.
According to an estimate, Rs 65 lakh will be spent on each court, which will be able to dispose 165 cases. The scheme would be subject to minor changes after consultation with states, Centre said.
As per the calculations arrived at, each judge will get to hear 165 cases. These courts will have a year to complete the trial.
The affidavit was filed in response to the SC’s November 2 order that asked the government to draw a road map for special courts to expedite trial of lawmakers facing criminal charges.
The court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by advocate Ashwini Upadhyaya, who has sought a life ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections, a plea the government has opposed.
After perusing the affidavit the court said: “On setting up of special courts a scheme has been framed, though rudimentary, which is based on certain calculations and perceptions on the time courts will take to dispose 1581 cases.”
The SC directed the high court concerned to mark the matters before the special court after tracing it out from the records.
The bench also brushed aside the apprehensions raised that a dozen courts were too less to decide 1581 cases. “A judge in his life time is able to decide just about 45 to 50 cases,” petitioner’s lawyer told the court. It was pointed out that several states did not have any special courts.
“Let these 12 courts start. To get the work started is difficult. This is not the end of it. They (Centre) have arrived at the figure through some calculations. Cases pending in states where there are no courts can be referred to other courts,” the bench said.
The court clarified its direction is tentative and has been done with a view to get the courts operational. If necessary changes are required in future or any amendments are to be made in the order, the same shall be done at an appropriate stage.
The case would be heard again on March 7 when the court will take stock of the progress made in accordance with its order.
Since the government was unable to gather information on the status of 1581 cases, the court gave it two more months to collect it.
Nadkarni submitted the Centre had written to the state chief secretaries and also all HCs to know how many cases had been disposed and how many are still awaiting a final decision. There was no government agency to maintain such a data, he said.