Monday, 3 October, 2022
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SC asks Centre, states to set up more special courts to expedite trials against MPs and MLAs

In its order Thursday, the Supreme Court asked CBI to extend all manpower and aid to resolve pending cases against lawmakers as soon as possible.

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New Delhi: Expressing deep concern over delayed trials in CBI cases against sitting and former Members of Parliament (MP) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA), the Supreme Court Thursday ordered the central and state governments to establish additional courts in states where over 100 such cases are pending.

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said that at present every state has only one special court to process these cases, some of which were filed a decade ago, which it termed a “travesty of justice”.

Noting that it may not be possible for one or two courts in a state to expedite all the trials or hear the cases daily, the bench suggested creating more special courts to decongest existing courts and also ensure easy accessibility to witnesses. These courts will also enable expeditious conclusion of cases, the bench said.

The SC order comes a day after senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, who is assisting the bench as amicus in the case, submitted a report on the pending criminal cases against lawmakers filed by the federal probe agencies Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The order noted that 121 CBI cases are pending against sitting and former MPs, while 112 involve sitting and ex-MLAs. Furthermore, according to the order, 37 cases are still in the investigation stage, with the oldest FIR filed on 24 October 2013.

During the hearing Wednesday, the SC had also expressed displeasure at the agencies not disclosing the reasons behind the delay in investigation in their sealed cover reports that were submitted to the bench as well as given to Hansaria.

The court’s order came on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, who has sought a lifetime ban on convicted MPs and MLAs from contesting elections.

Also read: Criminal cases against MPs & MLAs cannot be withdrawn without HC nod, rules Supreme Court

SC asks CBI to take all steps necessary to resolve pending cases

In its Thursday order, the top court took note of the cases that were filed a decade ago but were still pending because of non-appearance of accused, framing of charges or prosecution evidence.

Without going into the details of each case, the bench asked the CBI to take necessary steps to secure the appearance of the accused and provide necessary assistance to the CBI courts for framing of charges to expedite the conclusion of the cases.

The SC bench also recorded Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s assurance that he will take up the issues related to extending adequate manpower and infrastructure to resolve these cases with the director of CBI.

In September last year, the top court had ordered chief justices of all high courts to set up special benches to monitor progress of all criminal cases against elected representatives.

In the Thursday order, the court gave further directions to each HC, asking it to take necessary steps to expedite the pending trials and conclude the same within the time frame already fixed by its previous orders.

The court further directed Mehta to file a response to Hansaria’s submissions, particularly with respect to the constitution of a Monitoring Committee by the court to evaluate the reasons for delay in investigations.

It also went on to clarify that the court’s 16 September 2020 order, directing speedy disposal of trials in cases involving MPs and MLAs, pertained to expeditious hearing of matters at the trial stage and not of appeals filed by lawmakers in cases of acquittal.

(Edited by Rachel John)

Also read: 4,442 cases against MPs & MLAs still pending in courts across India, oldest dates back to 1983


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