Need to expedite trial in cases against MPs, MLAs, SC tells HCs
The Supreme Court on Thursday charged Chief Justices of High Courts with forming a Special Bench in each of their High Courts to keep a constant vigil over the criminal trials of MPs and MLAs, some of whom are accused of crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment, and ensuring they conclude.
What is the background behind handling cases against legislators?
- The Supreme Court authorized the Center in 2017 to establish special criminal courts solely for matters involving political personalities. Over 4400 criminal prosecutions against politicians are underway, involving corruption, money laundering, and other allegations. The delays in these trials are a major source of concern.
- According to a study of 2,495 candidate declarations by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 363 MPs and MLAs have disclosed criminal proceedings against them. The parliamentarians face accusations brought by the court for violations of Sections 8(1), (2), and (3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. According to the ADR study, these 363 people include 296 MLAs and 67 MPs.
Why is it required to set up a special court to prosecute the political leaders?
- Timely Disposition of Cases: Political leaders, particularly those in positions of power, may have demanding schedules and obligations. These matters can be prioritized by special courts, resulting in faster resolutions and fewer delays.
- Interference Avoidance: Prevention of Interference: High-profile cases involving political figures may be influenced or interfered with by outside sources. Special courts can be constructed to reduce the possibility of political pressure while assuring a fair and unbiased trial.
- Knowledge of Political Issues: Expertise in political Matters: Judges with experience in dealing with complicated legal and political matters can be assigned to special courts. This specialty can help to provide a more sophisticated knowledge of the cases under consideration.
- Public Perception: Creating separate courts for political leaders can boost public trust in the legal system. It indicates a commitment to holding people in positions of power accountable for their conduct, so increasing faith in the judiciary.
- Witnesses’ Protection: In instances involving political leaders, witnesses may experience intimidation or fear of retaliation. Measures can be put in place by special courts to protect witnesses and secure their cooperation in presenting truthful testimony.
- Priority cases should be prioritized: Cases involving significant offences, such as those punished by death or life imprisonment, can be prioritized by special courts. This ensures that the most serious infractions are dealt with as soon as possible.
- Accountability and transparency: Special courts can help to increase transparency in the legal system. They may include measures for public access to information to ensure that the processes are open and accountable.
- Politicization Avoidance: Special courts can help to keep legal proceedings from becoming politicized. The likelihood of partisan forces influencing the outcome is decreased by isolating political cases from ordinary courts.
What are the issues faced by our judicial system in setting up a special court?
- Allocate Resources: Special courts may necessitate more resources, such as skilled personnel, infrastructure, and funds. Allocating these resources can be difficult, particularly in jurisdictions with low financial resources.
- Legal Structure: It is critical to have a clear legislative framework in place to establish and operate special courts. To minimize uncertainty and legal difficulties, issues concerning jurisdiction, authorities, and procedures must be explicitly established.
- Concerns about the Constitution: The establishment of special courts may pose constitutional concerns, particularly if they are viewed as compromising the idea of equality before the law. It is critical to ensure that the establishment of special courts adheres to constitutional norms.
What is the viewpoint of the Supreme Court in this matter?
- Recognition of Importance: The Supreme Court recognizes that matters involving MPs and MLAs have a direct impact on parliamentary democracy, underlining the significance of resolving these cases as soon as possible.
- Strong Need for Priority: The court sees a compelling necessity to make every effort to ensure that cases against MPs and MLAs are taken up and decided as soon as possible.
- Recognition of Stark Differences: Because of the dramatic disparities in the number of pending cases between states and districts, the Supreme Court recognized the difficulties in setting uniform guidelines for trial courts across the country.
What is the way forward from the situation?
- Limited Adjournments: Adjournments should be given only in extraordinary circumstances and should be accompanied by written applications.
- Prompt Trials for the Rule of Law: Prompt trials of both current and former legislators are critical for sustaining the rule of law and building democracy.
- High Court Allocation: Each High Court shall appoint a specific judicial officer in each area to handle criminal courts involving politicians.
- Expeditious Disposal: High Courts should create a plan for quick case resolution, with trials lasting no more than a year.
- Priority for Current Legislators: Cases involving current legislators should take precedence over those involving former legislators.
Overall, the Supreme Court’s position indicates a commitment to tackling the unique issues connected with criminal proceedings involving political leaders while still guaranteeing a fair, transparent, and timely legal process.