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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Form bench to track cases against legislators, Supreme Court tells High Courts

The direction came in response to suggestions by Amicus Curiae Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria in a PIL by Advocate Ashwani Upadhyay, seeking a ban on convicted politicians from fighting elections.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: September 18, 2020 1:02:01 am
The state government had approached the court against the order of the Chhattisgarh High Court rejecting its petition for directions to examine expert witnesses. (File)

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked High Court Chief Justices to constitute a special bench to monitor the progress of trial of criminal cases against sitting and former legislators and to “forthwith” list all such cases which have been stayed and decide whether the stay should continue or not.

“The learned Chief Justices of the High Courts shall… designate a Special Bench, comprising themselves and their designate, in order to monitor the progress of these trials,” a bench of Justices N V Ramana, Surya Kant and Hrishikesh Roy ordered.

The direction came in response to suggestions by Amicus Curiae Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria in a PIL by Advocate Ashwani Upadhyay, seeking a ban on convicted politicians from fighting elections.

SC in 2017 had ordered the setting up of special courts in each state to try pending criminal cases against legislators. Accordingly, 12 such courts were set up across the country.

The report by Amicus Curiae had said that one of the reasons for the pendency of cases was the stay granted by higher courts.

Addressing this, the Supreme Court order asked High Court Chief Justices “to list forthwith all pending criminal cases involving sitting/former legislators (MPs and MLAs), particularly those wherein a stay has been granted, before an appropriate bench(es) comprising of the learned Chief Justice and/or their designates”.

“Upon being listed, the Court must first decide whether the stay granted, if any, should continue, keeping in view the principles regarding the grant of stay enshrined in the judgment of this Court in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Private Limited v. CBI, (2018),” it said.

The Supreme Court had in that case held that “if stay is granted, it should not normally be unconditional or of indefinite duration”.The apex court said that if a stay is considered necessary, the court should hear the matter on a day-to­day basis and dispose of it expeditiously, preferably within two months, without any unnecessary adjournment.

The order underlined that Covid-19 should not be an impediment to the compliance of the direction, as these matters can be heard virtually.

On suggestions to increase the number of special courts and rationalise the pending criminal cases, the court said it would first seek an action plan from the High Court Chief Justices.

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