Following the directions of the Supreme Court in December 2017, State Governments have started setting up special courts to fast track pending criminal cases against sitting MPs/MLAs.
In compliance of the Supreme Court’s direction to set up special courts to fast track pending cases against sitting MPs/MLAs, several state governments have started notifying special courts. The Madhya Pradesh High Court had designated the court in Bhopal as the special court for this purpose while the Government of Telangana also setup a special court in Hyderabad for this purpose.
Fast tracking cases against sitting MPs/MLAs
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’s 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.
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 have been directed to trace out the case records of all such pending cases and transfer the same to the special courts that are being setup.
Supreme Court asks for additional information from the Government on such cases
The Supreme Court has asked the Government of India to furnish the following additional information by February 2018.
- How many of 1581 cases involving MPs/MLAs (as declared at the time of filing of the nomination papers to the 2014 Elections) have been disposed of within one year as per the directions of the Supreme Court in 2014?
- How many of these cases which have been finally decided have ended in acquittal/conviction of MPs/MLAs?
- Between 2014 and 2017, how many fresh criminal cases have been lodged against any sitting MP/MLA?
The government had assured the court that the information would be submitted within 2 months. The next hearing of the case is due on 07th March 2018.
Glimmer of hope before 2019 elections
The central government has also allocated Rs 7.8 crore for setting up of 12 special courts for this purpose. Once the special courts start functioning, one hopes that all such pending cases against sitting MPs/MLAs will be decided before the 2019 elections.