In an affidavit to the Supreme Court on Monday, the Centre proposed setting up 12 special courts to try “1,581 criminal cases” pending against legislators across the country. The government, however, has said that it does not have data on how many of these cases have been decided and whether any new case has been filed against an MP or MLA between 2014 and 2017. It has sought more time to collate that information.
On November 1, the Supreme Court had asked the government to come up with a scheme to set up special courts for trying criminal cases against legislators. The court was hearing a PIL filed by Delhi BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, seeking a lifelong ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections.
“As per the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, it is proposed to have 12 special courts with an estimated expenditure of Rs 7.80 crore over a period of one year to dispose of all cases involving political persons,” the law ministry said in its affidavit.
This includes two special courts for trying cases against MPs and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
“The strategy proposed to be involved is to set up special courts under a central scheme exclusively for expediting criminal cases involving political persons, on the lines of fast track courts which were set up by the central government for a period of five years… The target is to dispose of 1,581 criminal cases involving MPs/ MLAs within a time frame of one year, as set by the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” it said.
The Centre submitted that Rs 65 lakh would be required for setting up each court, adding up to a total of Rs 7.8 crore.
The number of courts “has been calculated on the basis of the 11th Finance Commission analysis that one such court can dispose of 165 cases per annum”, said the government. In states where there are less than 65 cases, it has been proposed that the cases should be sent to the existing fast track courts.
In March 2014, the apex court had directed that cases against people’s representatives should be disposed of within a year.
During the November 1 hearing, the court had asked the Centre to apprise it on how many of the “1,581 criminal cases” pending against MPs and MLAs, “as declared at the time of filing of nomination papers for the 2014 elections”, were disposed of within a year as directed, how many had ended in acquittal or conviction, and whether any further criminal case had been filed against an MP or MLA after 2014.
Responding to this, the affidavit said: “There is no agency within the government collecting such data. Though the Centre had written to the Election Commission on this, the poll body also expressed its inability to provide the data.”
The EC, in its communication to the Centre, said that the figure was apparently taken by the petitioner from a report complied by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). The EC subsequently contacted the NGO, which said “the present figure is 1,571 not 1,581” and “this may be due to death/ resignation/ vacant seats etc.”
However, even ADR did not have data on which courts these cases were pending in, said the government.
The Centre has contacted the states and written to their chief secretaries, secretaries of state legislatures and secretary general of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for the information. The government is also in touch with the various high courts, in case the data is available with them, said the affidavit.
The apex court will consider the government’s proposal when it hears the matter on December 14.