Supreme Court mandates expedited trials for cases against MPs and MLAs, calls for formation of special benches

Landmark Decision Directs Swift Resolution for MPs and MLAs, Empowering High Courts to Take Charge

The Supreme Court has made a significant decision on November 9, directing the disposal of criminal cases against members of legislative assemblies and Parliament. The court has instructed High Courts to take suo moto action for the swift resolution of pending cases against elected legislators, including Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs). Chief Justices of the respective High Courts are tasked with overseeing the settlement of these cases.

The Supreme Court emphasized the urgency of addressing cases involving a death sentence or life imprisonment as maximum punishment, particularly those related to murder. The bench, comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra, acknowledged the challenges of establishing uniform guidelines across states. Consequently, the responsibility has been delegated to High Courts to formulate effective measures under Article 227 for monitoring such cases.

This development stems from a petition filed in 2016 by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, seeking directives to expedite criminal trials against current and former MPs and MLAs. The petitioner also called for the establishment of special courts to decide cases involving public servants and members of the judiciary within one year. Additionally, the plea urged the imposition of a lifetime ban on convicted individuals holding posts in legislative, executive, and judicial bodies.

According to the petitioner, data from High Courts revealed that 5,175 cases against MPs and MLAs remain pending, with 40% of them open for at least five years. In response to the first request, the Supreme Court left it to the High Courts of each state to monitor developments, acknowledging the impracticality of formulating uniform guidelines. The second request, related to the electoral ban on convicted persons, is still under consideration.

In a separate case in 2014, the Supreme Court had previously mandated the completion of trials against elected lawmakers within a year of charges being framed. The recent petition sought to ensure no adjournments, except in rare circumstances, and the cancellation of bail in case of delays. Trial courts have been instructed not to adjourn cases unnecessarily.

The context of the petition refers to a 2015 Supreme Court judgment that emphasized the speedy conclusion of trials against sitting MPs and MLAs, with a stipulated timeframe of one year from the date of framing charges. The court recommended day-to-day trials and instructed courts to submit reports to the Chief Justice of the respective High Court if unable to adhere to the time limit due to extraordinary circumstances.

Various High Courts, in compliance with a Supreme Court order, reported the number of pending cases against MPs and MLAs as of December 2018 and November 2022. Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of unresolved cases, with 992 in 2018 and 1,377 in the following year. Furthermore, 719 of these cases had remained undecided for over five years. Bihar also reported a significant number, with 546 pending cases as of November, and 381 lingering for more than five years. Other states with notable numbers include Odisha, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand.

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