Almost six months after the Supreme Court ordered that trials against elected legislators be completed within a year of charges being framed, the Centre has written to the states to expedite cases against MPs and MLAs.
Sources told The Sunday Express that Union Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad has sent out letters to all Chief Ministers, requesting them to ensure that trial in criminal cases involving MPs and MLAs should be completed within one year. The letter also requests the states to appoint special public prosecutors to deal with these cases “exclusively” and also ensure that needless adjournments are not sought.
Incidentally, Home Minister Rajnath Singh also wrote to CMs two days ago, asking them to appoint extra prosecutors exclusively to ensure trials are uninterrupted.
The March 10 order of the apex court didn’t get the desired attention from the state governments as it came at the time when the campaign for the general elections was picking up. “You would agree that it is very important to dispose of these cases as they reflect adversely on the personal integrity of our elected representatives. Hence, it is imperative that these cases should be decided expeditiously by the competent court. The judgment in such cases must be pronounced not later than one year from the date of institution, as directed by the Supreme Court,” Prasad’s letter says.
Copies of the letters have also been marked to the Chief Secretaries and state Home Secretaries. A separate letter has also been sent to chief justices of all high courts, requesting them to evolve a suitable mechanism to ensure speedy trials. He has also asked the states to identify “quickly” pending cases against MPs, MLAs and MLCs so that trials can be conducted on a day-to-day basis.
The letter, sources said, also refers to the March 10 order of the three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, in which it had directed that trial in cases involving sitting MPs and MLAs where charges had been framed for offences that are specified in Section 8(1), 8(2) and 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act shall be concluded “in no case later than one year from the date of the framing of charge(s)”.
“In such cases, as far as possible, the trial shall be conducted on a day-to-day basis. If for some extraordinary circumstances the concerned court is not being able to conclude the trial within one year from the date of framing of charge(s), such court would submit the report to the Chief Justice of the respective High Court indicating special reasons for not adhering to the above time limit and delay in conclusion of the trial,” the Bench comprising Chief Justice R M Lodha and Justice Kurian Joseph had said in its order in a PIL by NGO ‘Public Interest Foundation’.
The Bench also ordered that in case of delay, the High Court Chief Justice “may issue appropriate directions to the concerned court for expediting the trial”.
The court had also taken cue from a report submitted by the Law Commission of India which said that since conviction under Section 125A was necessary for disqualification under Section 8 to be triggered, the SC should order that in all trials under Section 125A, trial must be conducted on a day-to-day basis.