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Criminal Cases against MPs and MLAs

Facts for Prelims (FFP)


Source: ET

 Context: The Supreme Court issued directions for the speedy disposal of criminal cases against Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs).


The SC issued guidelines during a case challenging Section 8(3) of the Representation of People Act, 1951. This section imposes a six-year ban on individuals convicted of offences with a minimum two-year sentence from contesting elections.


SC guidelines:

Registration of Suo motu casesThe chief justices from high courts (HC) can now initiate suo motu cases for speedy resolution of pending criminal cases involving lawmakers.
Special BenchSuch cases against MPs/MLAs can be heard by a Chief Justice-led special bench.
Priority in Designated CourtsDesignated courts prioritize those criminal cases against MPs/MLAs which are: 1. Punishable with death or life imprisonment 2. Cases punishable with imprisonment for 5 years or more
Trial Court AdjournmentsTrial courts are instructed not to adjourn such criminal cases against MPs/MLAs, except for rare and compelling reasons.
District judges are tasked with ensuring adequate infrastructure and technological facilities for designated special courts trying lawmakers.
Monitoring MeasuresHCs should develop effective monitoring measures using powers under Article 227 to monitor such cases
Under Article 227 (1), HC exercises superintendence over all courts and tribunals in its jurisdiction.


Status of Criminal cases against MPs/MLAs:

In India, post the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 43% of newly-elected MPs had pending criminal cases, as reported by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). By December 2021, the number of pending criminal cases against current and former MLAs and MPs had reached close to 5,000.


Various Judgments Against Criminalization of Politics: 

Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India (2019)The SC mandated political parties to publish candidates’ criminal records on websites, social media, and newspapers. The Election Commission of India (ECI) was directed to create a framework for effective dissemination.
Manoj Narula v. Union of India (2014)The Delhi High Court held that a person charged with a criminal offence couldn’t be disqualified from elections. However, political parties were cautioned against fielding candidates with a criminal background.
Lily Thomas v. Union of India (2013)The SC ruled that MPs or MLAs convicted of a crime and sentenced to two years or more would be disqualified. Convicted lawmakers couldn’t contest elections or hold office pending appeal.
Association for Democratic Reforms v. Union of India (2002)The SC instructed the ECI to issue guidelines preventing political parties from giving tickets to candidates with criminal records. Candidates were required to disclose their criminal history in nomination papers.