Supreme Court accepts govt plan on special courts for trial of MPs, MLAs

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday accepted a central government scheme to set up 12 special courts to dispose of 1,581 criminal cases pending against lawmakers and state legislators within a year. As per the scheme, the special courts will begin their work on 1 March 2018.

The government made the proposal on Tuesday but it sought time to collate information on the status of these 1,581 cases from 2014 onwards, including information on how many had been disposed of and how many had ended in conviction or acquittal.

In its affidavit the government estimated the cost of setting up these courts at Rs65 lakh each. “The scheme envisages setting up for 12 special courts for a period of one year to dispose cases against political persons at an expenditure of Rs7.8 crore. On 8 December, the department of expenditure, ministry of finance has given-in-principle approval for the same,” the affidavit stated.

In November, a bench comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha directed the centre to set up special fast-track courts to deal with pending cases against legislators. It gave them a timeline of six weeks to submit the scheme for setting up such courts along with the costs.

The Election Commission (EC) had told the court that it supported decriminalization of politics through a lifetime ban on convicted members of Parliament (MPs) and legislative assemblies, and that recommendations of the EC and Law Commission for lifetime disqualification of politicians convicted in criminal cases were under consideration by the government.

During the general election campaign of 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised that if elected to power, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would find a mechanism to fast-track cases against politicians, especially MPs and MLAs.

The court was hearing a plea by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, advocate and spokesman for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeking a life-long ban on convicted persons from forming a political party and becoming political office bearers. The plea also sought a direction to the centre and the EC to fix minimum educational qualifications and an age limit for election candidates.