12 special courts for criminal trial of lawmakers soon

Supreme Court. Credit PTI

The Centre told the apex court that 1,581 criminal cases pending against lawmakers and politicians, a figure it had obtained from an NGO.

According to the government's affidavit in the Supreme Court, it made a decision to set up 12 courts across the country on the premise that 1,581 cases were pending against tainted lawmakers which could be easily disposed of within a year.

It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had asked the Centre and the Election Commission for their response to a PIL seeking to restrain convicted politicians from holding any posts in political parties.

The law ministry also told the court that the Finance Ministry has given the approval of Rs 7.8 cr to start the courts. The apex court had then passed its order on a PIL filed by a Delhi BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The EC subsequently contacted the NGO, which said "the present figure is 1,571 not 1,581" and "this may be due to death/ resignation/ vacant seats etc". In other States with less such legislators, cases would be tried by the existing fast track courts. The scheme, it said, may be suitably modified, if required, on the basis of such data and would be submitted for the Court's perusal.

According to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, a politician convicted and sentenced to a jail term of two years or more shall be disqualified from contesting polls for six years from the date of his release from prison after conclusion of the term. Bihar would have just one court to deal with 141 cases involving MLAs as will Maharashtra to try 160 cases against its legislators.

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"How numerous 1,581 cases involving members of legislative assembly and members of parliament (as declared at the time of filing of nomination papers for the 2014 general elections) have been disposed within the time frame of one year", the Supreme Court sought to know by its November 1 direction.

The ADR did not have information regarding the courts these cases were pending in, said the government.

As per the available details, 184 Lok Sabha and 44 Rajya Sabha MPs are facing criminal cases.

The government also sought some time from the top court to collect data on cases pending against elected representatives across the country, so it can better decide on how many special courts it needs to set up in total.

The apex court will consider the government's proposal when it hears the matter on December 14.

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