As many as 77 cases related to the Muzaffarnagar riots have been withdrawn by the Yogi Adityanath government, the Supreme Court was informed on Wednesday.
The figure emerged during a hearing into a petition seeking the setting up of special courts to try criminal cases against current and former lawmakers.
As many as 510 cases relating to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, in which over 50 people were killed and 50,000 affected, had been registered in five districts of the Meerut zone against 6,869 people.
Of these, chargesheets have been filed in 175 cases, final reports have been submitted in 165 cases and 170 cases have been expunged. Around 77 cases have been withdrawn by the Uttar Pradesh government under CrPC Section 321, according to a report filed by senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, who has been appointed amicus curiae.
Sources in Lucknow said many of the 77 cases were lodged against politicians and their associates. Earlier, the names of at least two Uttar Pradesh ministers and an MLA figured among those who stand to benefit from the withdrawals.
“The government orders do not give any reason for withdrawal of the cases under Section 321 of CrPC. It merely states that the administration, after full consideration, has taken the decision to withdraw the particular cases. Many of such cases relate to offence of dacoity under Section 397 IPC, punishable with imprisonment for life,” the report said.
The figures are based on information provided by the standing counsel of the Uttar Pradesh government to the amicus curiae.
Section 321 of the CrPC enables the public prosecutor or the assistant public prosecutor to withdraw the prosecution of any person.
The Supreme Court bench clarified that the court’s earlier observation that governments cannot withdraw criminal cases against the lawmakers did not mean that there was a blanket ban on such an option. The court said withdrawal was permissible, provided it was approved by the high court concerned.
“We aren’t against withdrawal of cases but it must be examined. If the high court (concerned) is satisfied, they can allow the government to withdraw,” Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said during the hearing.
The Enforcement Directorate informed the court that trials relating to 51 MPs and former parliamentarians accused in money-laundering cases involving over Rs 485 crore were pending adjudication for periods between two and 10 years.
The ED report also said that 71 MLAs and former lawmakers were currently accused in cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. Of these, 48 cases are still being investigated.
In a separate status report, the CBI stated that out of the 151 criminal cases pending trial before the agency’s special courts, 58 involved charges punishable with life imprisonment. The oldest of these 58 cases dates back to 2012.
In 45 cases, charges have not been framed although the offences are alleged to have been committed several years ago, the CBI said.
“Don’t keep things hanging like this. Do something. If a case has to be closed, then take a decision and if a case has to be continued, please do that,” Chief Justice Ramana told solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre.
The bench also has Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant. The PIL has been filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyaya.
Justice Chandrachud clarified that the orders being passed by the bench for expediting the criminal cases against politicians does not mean that their cases should be heard out of turn.
“High courts shouldn’t treat our order as a mandate that cases of MPs and MLAs have to be heard out of turn,” Justice Chandrachud said.
The bench made the observation after advocate Kamini Jaiswal complained that some current and former MPs facing criminal cases were asking for out-of-turn hearing of their appeals against their conviction.