Noting that there are over 4000 pending cases against sitting & former MLAs/MPs, the Supreme Court has now directed the State High Courts to assign & allocate these pending cases to as many lower courts to expedite their disposal.
Noting that there are over 4000 pending cases against sitting & former MLAs/MPs, the Supreme Court has now directed the State High Courts to assign & allocate these pending cases to as many lower courts to expedite their disposal. The amicus curiae appointed by the court submitted the state wise data related to these 4122 cases. Among these are 430 cases against sitting & former MLAs/MPs that involve life imprisonment.
Fast tracking cases against sitting MPs/MLAs – History
The issue of fast tracking pending criminal cases against sitting MPs/MLAs has been a longstanding demand of the civil society. The Supreme Court while hearing a case in (Writ Petition (Civil) 536/2011) had in March 2014 directed that the trial in pending cases against MPs/MLAs, where charges have been framed for offences specified in Sections 8(1), 8(2) and 8(3) of the Representation of People Act, be concluded within an year from the date of framing the charges.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had also sent an advisory to all the states in June 2014 reiterating the court’s comments and directing them to take certain steps like identifying all such cases, appointment of special prosecutors, review of cases at regular intervals, constitution of a district level co-ordination committee among other things.
This case ended with the Supreme Court refusing to bar those with pending criminal charges from contesting elections. At the same time, the court issued a slew of directions about disclosure of pending charges by those contesting elections. Candidates contesting elections who have pending charges against them, have to now disclose the same in newspapers and TV Channels at least thrice before the election.
Fresh Directions of the Supreme Court in December 2017
In another case (Writ Petition (Civil) 699/2016), the Supreme Court passed an order on 14th December 2017, directing that state governments setup special courts to fast track all pending cases against sitting MPs/MLAs by 01st March 2018.The High Courts of respective states were directed to trace out the case records of all such pending cases and transfer the same to the special courts that are being setup. It also has to be noted that there was no comprehensive information on the number of pending cases against sitting & former MLAs/MPs across states. Since the progress was slow and there were large number of cases pending across states, the SC has now modified its earlier orders.
4122 cases pending against sitting/former MLAs & MPs – 1/4th of them in UP
As per the latest submissions of Amicus Curiae to the court, there are a total of 4122 cases pending against sitting & former MPs/MLAs across all the states & UTs. Almost one-fourth or 992 of these cases are pending in Uttar Pradesh followed by 331 in Odisha. More than 300 cases are pending in each of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bihar and Maharashtra. Sikkim is the only state where not a single case is pending against sitting or former MLAs/MPs.
Out of these cases, 1991 cases are pending charge (where a charge-sheet has not been filed and charges are not framed) and 2007 cases are pending for trial in courts. There are also 264 such cases where stay has been granted.
Allocate the cases to as many courts as possible – SC to the High Courts
The Supreme Court in its latest order to the High Courts has directed them to assign/allocate criminal cases involving former and sitting legislators to as many Sessions Courts and Magisterial Courts as the each High Court may consider proper, fit and expedient. The SC also said that these directions will be applicable to Bihar and Kerala to start with and will then be reviewed accordingly.
The court also directed that offences should be taken in the following sequential order with no distinction between cases involving sitting legislators and former legislators.
- Offences punishable with imprisonment for life/death
- Serious offences punishable with imprisonment of 5 years or more
- Other offences
It remains to be seen if these directions can help reduce the large number of pending cases against sitting & former legislators.