GS Paper 2
Topics Covered: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
The Supreme Court is hearing a petition about the hundreds of criminal cases pending against MPs and MLAs, both sitting and former, for years together.
During the hearing, it has made the following observations on pending vacancies in probe agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
- Like judiciary even probe agencies suffered from the dearth of manpower and infrastructure.
- They are overburdened. For example, one trial court handles 1,000 cases.
- Some of these cases, investigated by agencies such as the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), have been pending for over a decade.
Data on pending cases against legislators:
- 51 MPs and 71 MLAs were accused of offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002.
- Out of the 121 cases pending trial against MPs and MLAs before the CBI courts across the country, 58 were punishable with life imprisonment.
- In 45 cases, even the charges have not been framed, though the offences were alleged to have been committed several years ago.
- A total of 37 CBI cases against legislators were continuing in the stage of investigation for years on end now.
Challenges and causes for frequent delays:
- The High Courts intervened and granted stay of the trial.
- ED cases were held up because they spanned to tax havens abroad, which refused to cooperate with investigations.
- Insufficient special courts to exclusively try cases against MPs/MLAs.
- Shortage of prosecutors and latches in prosecution.
- Delayed investigation.
Related Orders by the Supreme Court:
- In 2017, the Supreme Court had ordered that special courts be set up across the country to fast-track the long-pending trials of lawmakers.
- In February 2020, the Supreme Court ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with the reasons that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.
Need of the hour:
- The Court must pass a judicial order directing lower courts to complete the pending trial proceedings in a “mandatory time-bound manner”, possibly within the next six months.
- Efforts must be made to “rationalise” the number of cases before each trial court.
- A mechanism should be put in place soon to monitor the progress of criminal trials involving legislators soon. This would include special courts.
- Recently, the court had also directed that a criminal case against an MP or MLA could be withdrawn only after getting the consent of the High Court concerned.
- Political parties should themselves refuse tickets to the tainted.
- The RP Act should be amended to debar persons against whom cases of a heinous nature are pending from contesting elections.
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties.
Various State governments have resorted to withdrawal of numerous criminal cases pending against MP/MLA by utilising the power vested under Section 321 CrPC. What does this section state? Reference:
- Section 8 of the RP Act.
- SC guidelines.
- ECI- composition and functions.
- Powers of Election Commission on matters related to election of candidates.
Discuss the concerns associated criminalisation of politics and what the Supreme Court done to address these concerns?
Sources: the Hindu.