Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that 189 cases under special statutes are pending against legislators from across the country, legal news website BarandBench.com has reported.
The special acts in question are the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, under which 175 cases lie, and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, under which 14 cases lie.
Hansaria, who is Amicus Curiae in the case concerning Special Courts to try cases against Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies (MPs and MLAs), also told the Apex Court that there is "no uniformity as to the setting up of Special Courts for MPs/MLAs throughout the country."
On September 14, the Supreme Court had directed the High Courts to submit reports on pending cases against MPs and MLAs under special laws within two days.
All High Courts apart from the High Courts of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Jharkhand and Gauhati had been asked to submit the reports.
The report filed by the Amicus Curiae is pursuant to the directions issued by the Supreme Court in the PIL filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking the speedy disposal of criminal cases against former and present MPs and MLAs.
The report placed before the court mentions that in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal, there is one Special Court for all cases against MPs/MLAs.
In the State of Telangana, apart from the Special Court for MPs/MLAs, cases are also pending before the Special Court, CBI. In all other states, these cases are pending in respective jurisdictional courts.
In his report, Hansaria states that there is also no clarity as to the courts which are trying offences under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The report states, "For example, in the state of Madhya Pradesh (where 21 cases are pending) and in Karnataka (where 20 cases are pending) all these cases are pending before Special Judge (MP/MLA) at Bhopal and Bengaluru respectively. In Telangana, these cases are before Special Judge, CBI at Hyderabad. In Delhi, cases under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, registered both by Delhi Police and by CBI are before the Special Court MP/MLA. Similar is the situation with regard to offences punishable under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002."
Regarding Karnataka, the report mentions that a Special MP/MLA court exists. However, since witnesses from all over the state are required to travel to depose in the Special Court at Bengaluru, there is delay in trial.
As regards Bhopal, the amicus states that there are 67 pending cases registered under the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, all of which are against one sitting MLA. These cases are pending before Special Judge MP/MLA Bhopal even though they arise within the jurisdiction of Indore.
The report suggests that each High Court may be directed to allocate criminal cases involving former and sitting legislators to one judicial officer in each district. It is also suggested that high courts be directed to prepare a blueprint for expeditious disposal of cases, and that trials should not take more than one year.
Further, it has been suggested that High Courts be made to designate a judicial officer for all cases under special Acts and that they should try these cases on priority basis.
"The judicial officer can be allotted other work depending on the workload, number and nature of criminal cases against MPs/MLAs. The judicial officer so designated shall have continuity of tenure for a minimum period of two years," the report says.
The report states that the order of importance of cases in Special Courts would be:
The amicus has further made a case for giving higher priority to cases involving sitting legislators over those against former legislators. Moreover, no adjournment should be granted except in rare and exceptional circumstances on a written application stating the ground of adjournment.
Another suggestion is that the verdict in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Pvt. Ltd. v. CBI be followed to ensure that trial courts proceed with the trial notwithstanding any stay granted by the High Court, unless a fresh order is passed extending the stay by recording reasons.
The report states: "In the alternative, Registrar Generals may be directed to place the matters involving MPs and MLAs before Hon’ble Chief Justice for appropriate orders for urgent listing of such cases.
Hon’ble Chief Justice of every High Court may be requested to list all pending against cases involving MPs and MLAs within 2 weeks before appropriate Bench; and upon being so listed, the cases will be decided by the appropriate Bench expeditiously. No adjournment shall be granted except on a written application disclosing the ground and for reasons to be recorded."
The report also calls for rules to be framed for video conferencing in courts, establishment of a safe and secure witness examination room, and appointment of a Nodal Prosecution Officer and Public Prosecutor for these cases.
Hansaria had earlier informed the court that a total of 4,442 cases are pending against MPs and MLAs across India, out of which 2,556 sitting legislators are yet to face trial.