To ensure effective trial of pending criminal cases involving former and sitting lawmakers in Bihar and Kerala, the Supreme Court Tuesday directed setting up of specially designated courts in each district of these two states to try such cases.
The apex court was informed that there were 4,122 criminal cases pending, some for over three decades, against present and former members of Parliament and legislative assemblies.
The top court fixed the sequence for cases to be tried in these designated courts and said that cases against sitting or former Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) involving offences punishable with life imprisonment or death sentence, shall be taken as a first priority.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph said that creating designated courts in each district will be a more effective step instead of concentrating all the cases involving former and sitting legislators in one special court.
"Instead of designating one sessions court and one magisterial court in each district we request each high court to assign/allocate criminal cases involving former and sitting legislators to as many sessions courts and magisterial courts as each high court may consider proper, fit and expedient," the bench said after perusing the data of pending cases against the lawmakers.
Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter in his report pointed out that there is presently 4,122 number of pending cases against MPs/MLAs including former lawmakers.
He suggested to the bench that the designated special courts in each district should hold a trial for the cases against lawmakers on a day to day basis in a particular priority starting with cases involving offences punishable with imprisonment for life/death against sitting MPs/MLAs.
Hansaria along with advocate Sneha Kalita, who had filed the data received from different states and high courts, said that after the trial of cases involving sitting lawmakers, cases of former MPs/MLAs should be tried.
The bench, however, modified his suggestion and said that the designated courts should take up cases of both sitting as well as former MPs/MLAs involving offences which entail a punishment of life term or death sentences as a first priority.
"The procedural steps indicated by the amicus curiae, will be followed by each designated court to whom work would be allocated in terms of the directions except that offences punishable with imprisonment for life/death against sitting MPs/MLAs as well as former MPs/MLAs would be taken up on first priority followed by sequential order without creating any distinction between cases involving sitting legislators and former legislators," the bench said in its order.
The bench said that at this stage, its direction shall be made applicable to cases involving former and sitting legislators in Bihar and Kerala.
The bench noted the submission of Hansaria which said that concentration of all the cases against former and sitting lawmakers in 12 Special Courts set up earlier would result in a delay of the trial on account of witnesses and accused is required to come from far away places.
The bench said, "The National Capital Territory of Delhi where the position is somewhat different and the difficulties of distance and territories do not come in the way the trial of cases by the Special Courts (both Sessions Court and Magisterial Court) will continue".
It directed that cases records pertaining to the matters involving lawmakers in Kerala and Bihar which were transmitted to the special courts should be re-transmitted forthwith to the jurisdictional district courts.
"The registry of the High Courts of Kerala (State of Kerala) and Patna (State of Bihar) will initiate necessary action in this matter without any delay," it said.
The bench, however, made it clear that the rest of the special courts already set up by the earlier direction of apex court shall continue to work and try cases assigned to it until further orders.
It asked the designated courts in each district of Kerala and Bihar to submit a monthly report to the high court with regard to the cases where charge-sheets have not yet been filed, charges not framed with appropriate reasons and the progress of the trial.
The court directed the Kerala and Patna High Courts to place their action taken report before it on or before December 14.
Hansaria, in his report, said that in 1991 cases of sitting and ex-MPs/MLAs including some which are pending for nearly three decades, charges have not been framed.
He said that there are a total of 430 cases, which involve offences punishable with life term or death sentence, pending against sitting as well as former legislators.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by lawyer and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking a lifetime ban on politicians convicted in criminal cases besides the setting up of special courts to expeditiously try cases involving elected representatives.
(With inputs from agencies.)