SC seeks details of cases against lawmakers

Chief Justice-in-waiting hints at tough months ahead for accused legislators

By R. Balaji
  • Published 13.09.18
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Justice Ranjan Gogoi

New Delhi: The judge set to take over as the country's next chief justice said on Wednesday the Supreme Court would if needed "monitor" pending criminal cases against lawmakers once they are fast-tracked to special courts, hinting at tough times ahead for accused MPs and MLAs.

Justice Ranjan Gogoi directed states and high courts to place before the top court details of such pending cases for transfer to the 12 special courts that have already been set up.

"We specifically direct the two authorities, namely, the chief secretaries of the states and the registrar generals of the high courts, to lay before us the precise number of cases... pending and required to be transferred to the special courts," the judge said in an order.

The judge, who is due to assume charge on October 3, sought details on whether the 12 special courts were functional, and fixed October 10 for the next hearing.

"We also make it clear that on receipt of the requisite information... the (top) court will monitor compliance of its orders passed from time to time by clubbing a number of states together for being separately taken up on each date of hearing," Justice Gogoi, sitting on a bench with Justice Navin Sinha, added.

The order came on a public interest petition from advocate Ashwini Upadhyaya for setting up special courts to fast-track cases involving legislators.

On November 1 last year, the court had asked the Centre and the states for details on how many of the 1,581 cases involving MLAs and MPs - according to election affidavits for 2014 - had been disposed of within a year as the court had "envisaged" in an order dated March 10, 2014.

"How many of these cases which have been finally decided have ended in acquittal/conviction of MPs and MLAs as may be," the top court had wanted to know.

The court had also sought details of whether any more criminal cases had been lodged against any current or former legislator between 2014 and November 1, 2017.

Later, in another order on December 14, the top court had asked high courts to "trace out" from the records cases pending with judicial officers that were "required to be dealt with by the special courts... for adjudication".

The Centre had subsequently filed an additional affidavit through the law ministry that said one special court each had been set up in Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, and two in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

But despite repeated requests, the central government had said, a host of states, Union Territories and high courts had not furnished details about the cases under their respective jurisdiction.

The bench of Justice Gogoi on Wednesday issued a fresh directive to the remaining 25 states and Union territories and their high courts, listing each one by name: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and Puducherry.

"We direct the chief secretaries of the above mentioned states and Union territories as well as the registrar-generals of the high courts in each of the states and Union territories to lay before us the full and complete updated information as required in terms of our order(s)...," the bench said.