Supreme Court Issues Guidelines for Early Disposal of Cases Against MPs/MLAs

Supreme Court Law Insider

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Published on: November 09, 2023 at 14:56 IST

The Supreme Court of India has taken significant steps to ensure the early resolution of pending criminal cases against Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs).

The Court issued a set of directions aimed at expediting the trial and resolution of such cases. The move comes as a response to concerns over delays and the need for effective monitoring of legal proceedings involving elected representatives.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra recognized the challenges of establishing uniform guidelines applicable across different states.

Therefore, the Supreme Court left it to the High Courts of each state to develop measures to efficiently oversee these cases, invoking their powers under Article 227 of the Indian Constitution.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court provided the following general directions to guide the early resolution of pending cases against MPs and MLAs:

  1. High Court Chief Justices are instructed to initiate a suo motu case titled “In Re Designated Courts for MPs/MLAs” to oversee the early resolution of pending criminal cases against these elected officials. A special bench, led by the Chief Justice or a designated bench, should hear this case.
  2. The Special Bench handling the suo motu case is encouraged to list it at regular intervals as deemed necessary. The High Court may issue relevant orders and directives to ensure the swift and effective resolution of these cases. The Special Bench may also consider involving the Advocate General or Prosecutor to assist the court.
  3. The High Court may appoint a Principal District & Sessions Judge responsible for assigning the cases to designated courts. The Principal District & Sessions Judge may be instructed to provide regular progress reports.
  4. Designated courts are urged to prioritize cases as follows: (i) criminal cases against MPs/MLAs that carry a punishment of death or life imprisonment, (ii) cases with a sentence of five years or more, (iii) other cases. The trial court should avoid unnecessary adjournments, rescheduling cases only in rare and compelling circumstances.
  5. The Chief Justice is empowered to review cases where trial proceedings have been stayed, ensuring that appropriate orders, including the vacation of the stay order, are issued to initiate the trial.
  6. The Principal District & Sessions Judge should facilitate adequate infrastructure for designated courts and enable them to adopt suitable technology for effective functioning.
  7. The High Court is expected to create an independent section on its website, providing district-wise information about pending cases’ filing year, the number of cases, and their current stage of proceedings.

While overseeing these cases, the special bench may issue orders or directives as necessary to expedite their resolution, the Court clarified.

With these directions, the Supreme Court addressed the first prayer in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Ashwini Upadhyay. The petition remains pending to consider other prayers aimed at barring convicted MPs/MLAs and individuals dismissed from government service for corruption or disloyalty from contesting any elections for life.

The petitioner challenged provisions of the Representation of the People Act, which limit disqualification periods to the period of sentence plus six years after release and impose a five-year disqualification on government servants dismissed for corruption or disloyalty.

The Supreme Court’s actions are part of ongoing efforts to ensure the swift resolution of criminal cases against sitting and former MPs and MLAs. The Court’s guidelines aim to deter individuals with criminal backgrounds from entering politics and enhance the integrity of the electoral process.

Case Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. UOI W.P.(C) No. 699/2016

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