The Supreme Court today directed that 12 special courts, to be set up to exclusively deal with cases involving lawmakers, should start functioning from March 1 next year and asked the Centre to “forthwith” allocate Rs 7.80 crore proportionately to the respective states.
Immediately after the allocation of the funds by the Centre, the concerned state governments should, in consultation with the high courts, set up these special courts and ensure that they become functional from March 1, it said.
A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha also granted two months to the Centre to collect and collate the data regarding cases involving MPs and MLAs pending across the country, observing that information sought by it was not “readily available”.
The court perused the additional affidavit filed by the Centre in the matter in which the government has proposed the setting up of 12 special courts at this stage to deal with the cases involving politicians and said that Rs 7.8 crore would be earmarked for it.
“Having considered the matter, we direct the Union of India to proportionately allocate the aforesaid expenditure, that is Rs 7.80 crore, to different states in which the special courts are planned to be located. This should be done forthwith,” the bench said.
“Immediately after such allocation is made and intimated to the respective state governments, the state governments in consultation with the high courts will set up the fast track courts (12 in all) to ensure that the said courts start functioning from March 1, 2018,” the court said.
The apex court said the “main issue” relating to a life ban on convicted politicians would be taken up for hearing in the month of March.
When the advocates appearing for petitioners argued that more special courts should be constituted by the Centre, the bench observed, “let 12 courts, which they have proposed to set up, be set up first. Let’s not block it. This is not the end to it”.
“It is very easy to find fault. It is the easiest thing to do. First, let these courts start,” the bench said.
The top court also said the respective high courts would trace out from case records under their jurisdiction, the cases pending against the lawmakers and earmark them to these special courts.
“We further make it clear that what has been directed above is all very tentative at this stage and has been so done with a view to get the Court(s) operational and functional. As and when necessary changes are required to be made in the present directions or any additional directions are called for, the same will be issued, as may be required,” it said.
The court posted the matter for hearing on March 7.
At the fag end of hearing, the bench asked, “everybody has forgotten the main issue of life time ban. Nobody wants that to be heard?”
To this, the counsel appearing for the petitioners said they were ready to argue on that issue. The bench, however, said it would be heard in March.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, representing the Centre, said they have written to state governments and high courts to provide data relating to the number and status of cases pending against MPs and MLAs.
He said it would take some time to collect and collate these information and referred to the additional affidavit filed by the Centre.
Nadkarni said the scheme proposed was with a target to dispose of pending criminal cases involving lawmakers within one year as stipulated by the apex court earlier.
The court noted in its order that a scheme, though rudimentary at this stage, has been placed before it by the Centre in the matter.
Advocate Gopal Shankarnarayanan, appearing for one of the intervenors, said that sitting MPs and MLAs should be asked to give details of the cases pending against them.
“Why should we? Are you suggesting that we should ask ECI to issue notice to 1000-2000 MPs and MLAs of the country for this? Why should we ask the ECI to write to all the elected people,” the bench asked while making it clear that it would not issue any such direction.
The issue of not setting up special courts in some states like Gujarat and Chhattisgarh at this stage, was also raised before the bench.
The apex court had on November 1 directed the Centre to place before it the details regarding 1,581 cases involving MPs and MLAs, as declared by the politicians at the time of filing their nominations during the 2014 general elections.
It had asked the government to apprise it of how many among these 1,581 cases have been disposed of within a year and how many have ended either in conviction or acquittal.
The government’s affidavit has said that the figure of 1,581 cases has been obtained from an NGO, but the data as to in which courts these cases are pending is not available.
The top court was hearing petitions, including the one filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, seeking to declare the provisions of the Representation of People Act, which bar convicted politician from contesting elections for six years after serving jail term, as ultra vires of the Constitution.
( Source – PTI )