In compliance with 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 the special courts.
The Madhya Pradesh High Court designated the court in Bhopal as the special court for this purpose while the government of Telangana has set up a special court in Hyderabad for the same.
The issue of fast-tracking criminal cases against sitting MPs/MLAs has been a longstanding demand of civil society. The Supreme Court directed in March 2014 that the trial in cases pending 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 a year from the date of framing the charges.
The home ministry had also sent an advisory to all 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.
In another case, the Supreme Court passed an order on December 14, 2017, directing that states set up special courts to fast-track cases against lawmakers by March 1, 2018.
The high courts have been directed to trace records of such cases and transfer the same to the special courts.
The apex court also asked the Centre to furnish the following information by February 2018:
– How many of 1,581 cases involving MPs/MLAs (as declared at the time of filing of nomination papers for the 2014 elections) were disposed of within one year as per the directions of the Supreme Court in 2014?
– How many cases which have been decided ended in acquittal/conviction of MPs/MLAs?
– Between 2014 and 2017, how many fresh cases have been lodged against sitting MPs/MLAs?
The next hearing is on March 7.
The central government has also allocated Rs 7.8 crore to set up 12 special courts. Once they start functioning, pending cases against sitting MPs/MLAs may well be decided before the 2019 general elections.
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