Supreme Court today said “multiple factors” weigh in to affect the speedy disposal of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs. The top court left it to the high courts, which have jurisdiction over lower courts, to ensure early and quick disposal of criminal matters against lawmakers.
It is difficult to lay down uniform guidelines and we leave it to the high courts to decide on the modalities for effective monitoring of such cases, the three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said.
The top court’s decision came on advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay’s plea seeking a lifetime ban on convicted lawmakers and speedy disposal of trials where MPs and MLAs stand as accused. While the court today decided on the issue of guidelines on how the high courts can monitor and ensure speedy disposal of cases, the plea seeking a lifetime ban was kept pending.
Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, who was the amicus curiae in this matter, furnished several reports over the years in which he apprised the courts on the status of pending cases. According to Hansaria’s 17th report submitted last year in November, there were 5,097 pending cases against MPs/MLAs of which more than 40 percent or 2,122 cases have been pending for more than five years.
With 1,377 cases, Uttar Pradesh recorded the maximum number of cases against MPs/MLAs followed by Bihar with 546 cases. Of these, 719 pending cases in UP were over five years old, while in Bihar there were 381.
Even as it left it to the high courts to monitor such cases, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to follow for early disposal of pending cases:
- High Court Chief Justices shall register a suo motu case to monitor the early disposal of pending criminal cases against lawmakers.
- HC Special Bench hearing the suo motu case may hear the matter at regular intervals and issue appropriate orders/directions to necessitate expeditious and effective disposal of cases. Advocate General or Prosecutor may assist the court in this matter.
- HC may ask a Principal District and Sessions Judge to allocate cases to its courts and send reports at intervals.
- The designated court hearing cases against MPs/MLAs shall give priority - (i) criminal cases that are punishable with capital punishment or life imprisonment, (ii) cases punishable with more than five years or more jail time, and (iii) other cases. Supreme Court ruled that the trial courts shall not adjourn the cases except for rare and compelling reasons.
- HC Chief Justice may take up cases that have been stayed to ensure appropriate orders are passed to ensure the commencement of the trial.
- The Principal District & Sessions Judge shall ensure sufficient infrastructure and technological facilities for the designated court to function effectively.
- The High Court shall create an independent tab on its website listing district-wise details of criminal cases against MPs/MLAs including the year in which the case was filed, the number of subject cases pending, and the stage of proceedings.