New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the “last opportunity” to Centre to submit detailed status report regarding details of pendency and stage of trial of cases involving sitting and former lawmakers registered with the central agencies, the CBI, and others.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Surya Kant told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta: “We are reading these reports in newspapers. They (the government) don’t send us anything. We get everything in the evening… we don’t know anything”.
The CJI said that in September last year, the court had granted time to Centre to file a detailed status report, then in October again, time was sought, and today, the situation is the same.
Mehta replied: “I agree we are lacking. We had filed a report yesterday on behalf of ED.. I emphasised the need to the CBI Director to immediately place it before your lordships.”
As this, the Chief Justice said this does not work. “What else can we say to express our displeasure, we were told Centre is concerned about pending cases against MPs and MLAs,” he added.
Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, appointed amicus curiae in the matter, submitted that it is disturbing as cases are pending for over 7 years.
The bench noted that it has taken up the matter after more than a year.
“Lot of time has passed. Special bench has to be constituted to monitor these cases. This way it does not work,” it added.
As Mehta asked for last opportunity to comply with the court’s direction, the CJI told him that: “We are giving you two weeks, this is the last opportunity.” He also sought reply in connection with the video conferencing facilities to be put in place.
The bench also ordered that no prosecution against MP/MLA is to be withdrawn without the approval from the high court concerned. This order clamps down on state’s power to withdraw cases due to political reasons.
The bench also ordered that special court judges hearing cases against accused MPs and MLAs shouldn’t be transferred until further orders. The top court posted the matter for further hearing on August 25.
Hansaria, who was assisted by advocate Sneha Kalita, said that various state governments withdrew cases against sitting and former lawmakers due to extraneous reasons.
The report cited orders issued under Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code by Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Maharashtra.
The court said: “It merits mentioning that the power under Section 321, CrPC is a responsibility which is to be utilised in public interest, and cannot be used for extraneous and political considerations. This power is required to be utilised with utmost good faith to serve the larger public interest.”
In August 2020, by an order of the Karnataka government, instructions were issued to withdraw 61 criminal cases, many of which were filed against sitting legislators.
Hansaria added that the UP government has sought to withdraw 76 cases against elected representatives, including the Muzaffarnagar riot cases against Sangeet Som, Kapil Dev, Suresh Rana and Sadhvi Prachi.
He also cited a report from Maharashtra, where the government decided in December last year to withdraw political cases against activists registered prior to December 31, 2019.
Hansaria made the recommendation in a 2016 petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking direction to fast-tracking of criminal trials against sitting and former MPs/MLAs.