New Delhi: The Central Government has submitted a scheme for setting up of Special Courts for exclusively dealing with criminal cases against legislators involving Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) before the Supreme Court of India.
The ministry of law and justice’s additional secretary Reeta Vasishta told that In an Additional Affidavit, the Centre has submitted that the scheme envisages setting up of 12 Special Courts at an expenditure of Rs. 7.80 crores. It further submitted that the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance has given in-principle approval for the same on 8 December.
The submission was made in response to the questions posed and directions issued by the Court during the last hearing on 1 November. The Bench, headed by Justice Gogoi, had then, inter alia, directed, “A scheme to give effect to the above may be laid before the Court on the next date fixed indicating the amount of funds that can be earmarked for setting up of Special Courts…”,
Surprisingly the Centre also submitted in the affidavit that there is no agency within Government of India for collecting the data on convicted legislators. It also states that though the Law Ministry has written to Election Commission of India, Election Commission also expressed its inability in this regard. As per the affidavit the figure of 1581 cases have been obtained from an NGO.
The Court observed that once the scheme is submitted before it, the Court will deal with the issue of appointing judicial officers, public prosecutors and court staff by interacting with the representatives of the States.
Suggesting the creation of a central scheme for establishing such Courts, the Apex Court had then observed, “Insofar as setting up of Special Courts are concerned, setting up of Special Courts and infrastructure would be dependent of the availability of finances with the State. Without going into the controversy raised on the aforesaid score, the problem can be resolved by having a Central Scheme for setting up of Courts exclusively to deal with criminal cases involving political persons on the lines of the Fast Track Courts which were set up by the Central Government for a period of five (05) years and extended further which Scheme has been now discontinued.”
The Court had also sought to know how many of the 1581 cases involving MPs and MLAs have been disposed of within the timeframe of 1 year, as envisaged by the Court in the case of Public Interest Foundation & Ors. v. Union of India & Anr.
Since the figure of 1581 cases was extracted from the declaration made at the time of filing nomination papers during the 2014 elections, the Court had further demanded information on any new cases lodged against any present or former legislator.
With regard to such statistics, the Centre has sought more time from the Court, submitting that it has contacted the respective States in order to gather the relevant details. The scheme, it said, may be suitably modified, if required, on the basis of such data and would be submitted for the Court’s perusal.
The Court is hearing a Petition filed by lawyer and Delhi BJP leader Mr. Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay, who has sought lifetime debarment of convicted politicians. To this end, he has challenged as unconstitutional the provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act, which bars convicted politicians from contesting elections for a period of six years after serving jail term.