SC seeks full info from states, high courts on status of cases pending against politicians

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The Supreme Court Wednesday asked 25 states and union territories and the high courts to place before it full and complete updated information about the status of cases pending against MPs and MLAs. The apex court also asked these states, union territories (UTs) and registrars general of all high courts to place before it the precise number of cases which are currently pending and are required to be transferred to the special courts, set up to deal exclusively with cases involving MPs and MLAs. A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha noted that 12 special courts have already been set up in 11 states and said the information should be placed before it by October 10, the next date of hearing. The bench noted in its order that 25 states and UTs, including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Punjab and Chandigarh, have not furnished any information in pursuance to the orders passed by the court on November 1 last year and August 21 this year. We direct the chief secretaries of the above mentioned (25) states and union territories as well as the registrars general of the High Courts in each of the states and union territories to lay before us full and complete updated information as required in terms of our order dated November 1, 2017 and August 21, 2018, the bench said. We specifically direct the two authorities, namely the chief secretaries of the states and the registrars general of the High Courts, to lay before us the precise number of cases which are presently pending and required to be transferred to the special courts; whether the 12 special courts set up are functional and whether in view of the volume of cases that would be required to be transferred to the special courts, there is the necessity of setting up of additional courts, it said. The bench also made it clear that on receipt of this information, the top court would, if needed, monitor compliance of its orders by clubbing a number of states together for being separately taken up on each date of hearing. Senior lawyer Sajan Poovayya, appearing for petitioner and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, referred to the affidavit filed by the Department of Justice and said 12 special courts have been set up in 11 states but there was no material to show how many cases have been transferred to these courts. He said that as per the governments affidavit, one special court has been set up in Andhra Pradesh and 25 cases were transferred to the court, but it has not been said whether there were only 25 cases involving MPs and MLAs in the entire state. As per the governments affidavit, the total number of cases transferred, disposed of and pending in these special courts are 1233, 136 and 1,097 respectively. Poovayya said the apex court had noted in its November 1 last years order that there were 1,581 cases involving MPs and MLAs, as declared at the time of filing of the nomination papers for the 2014 elections, but this year, the number of cases against them might have increased. The apex court in its November last years order had also sought details as to whether any further criminal cases have been lodged against any present or former MPs and MLAs between 2014 and 2017, along with their details. The Department of Justice, in their latest affidavit, has said that one special court each has been set up in states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telengana, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal whereas two such courts have been set up in National Capital Territory of Delhi. The affidavit has further said that information from the remaining states and high courts has not yet been received. Out of the 12 special courts, six have been set up at the sessions court level, five at the magistrate level, while the class of the court in Tamil Nadu has not been indicated, it said. It said that states where the criminal cases against MPs and MLAs were less than 65, regular courts would try these matters on a fast-track mode. With regard to the setting up of courts in addition to the 12 notified, the department has said the high courts of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Patna, Calcutta and Kerala have negated any such requirement, while the Bombay High Court has expressed the requirement for additional courts without specifying any particular number. On August 21, the apex court had sought details about the special courts, including the number of cases pending before each of these courts, along with a break-up of magisterial and sessions triable cases. The top courts order was passed on a petition filed by Upadhyay seeking to declare the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, which bar convicted politician from contesting elections for six years after serving jail term, as ultra vires of the Constitution.