New Delhi, Dec 5: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed that criminal cases against present and former members of Parliament and state Assemblies, involving offences punishable with life imprisonment or death should be taken up by the special or designated courts on priority.
The cases allocated by the High Courts to designated courts involving the offences "punishable with imprisonment for life/death against sitting MPs or MLAs as well as former MPs or MLAs would be taken up on first priority..." said the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph.
The court said the cases punishable with life imprisonment or death would be followed by the cases involving offences entailing imprisonment for five years or more.
These two categories of cases would be followed by cases involving other offences.
The court made it clear that there would be no distinction between cases involving sitting or former lawmakers.
The designated courts will follow the steps "without creating any distinction between cases involving sitting legislators and former legislators".
Amicus curiae Vijay Hansaria, in his report, told the court that 4,122 cases are pending against sitting and former lawmakers of Parliament and the State legislatures. Of this, 2,324 cases are pending against sitting lawmakers and 1,675 against former legislators.
Hansaria said of the 4,122 cases, charges are yet to be framed in 1,991.
He also sought a direction to the High Courts to expedite the hearing in 264 cases where the proceedings before the lower courts are stayed. Hansaria is being assisted by advocate Sneha Kalita.
In a departure from earlier focus on special courts in each state to try cases involving politicians, the court on Tuesday asked "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".
This, court said, "would be a more effective step instead of concentrating all the cases involving former and sitting legislators in Special Court(s) in the district".
The court issued the order, modifying Hansaria's suggestion that one Sessions Court and one Magisterial Court be designated in each district to try cases against politicians.
The court said that for the present its directions on High Court allocating the cases to Sessions Courts and Magisterial Courts involving former and sitting legislators would be limited to Bihar and Kerala.
"... We are of the view that the above directions should be made applicable to cases involving former and sitting legislators in the states of Bihar and Kerala," the court said.
For the remaining states, the court ordered: "Rest of the Special Courts already set up shall continue to work and try cases assigned to it until further orders are passed in this regard by this Court."
The court further ordered that in Kerala and Bihar, the records of the cases that have been earlier transmitted to the Special Courts would be re-transmitted to the courts to which these cases would be allocated by the respective High Courts.
"This will be done forthwith," the court ordered.
The designated courts in the districts in Kerala and Bihar would submit monthly reports to the respective High Courts with regard to "the cases where charge-sheets have not yet been filed; cases where charges have not yet been framed giving reasons; and the progress of the trial where the cases are ready," the court said.
The high courts, the top court said, in turn, would forward the said reports to the registry of this Court with a copy to Hansaria, who was asked to go through the said reports and assist the Court by placing the information conveyed before this Court in an appropriate manner on the next date(s) of hearing.
The court slated the next hearing for December 14.
The order came on a petition by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar seeking a lifetime ban on politicians, convicted for criminal offences, for contesting elections.
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