Lawyer and BJP leader, Mr. Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, has now sought a direction to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to ask all legislators to intimate it of the status of all criminal cases pending against them. Such intimation, he contended, should be submitted within 90 days, failing which their elections should be rendered null and void.
The plea has been made in a rejoinder filed in response to an Affidavit filed by the Centre, wherein it informed the Court that a scheme for setting up of Special Courts to exclusive deal with criminal cases involving Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) has already been put in place.
The Centre had submitted that the scheme envisages setting up of 12 Special Courts at an expenditure of Rs. 7.80 crores. It had 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..."
The Court had also sought to know how many 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.
In his rejoinder, Mr. Upadhyay has, however, contended that the onus of providing such information should be placed on the legislators themselves, pointing out the deficiencies in the national data grid and the case status search option on the Court websites.
He has further pointed out that the number of Special Courts sought to be established by the Centre is "highly inadequate" for the disposal of approximately 13,680 pending cases, a figure which he has extracted from the report supplied by an NGO- Association for Democratic Reforms.
Mr. Upadhyay has, therefore, also sought a direction to the Centre to establish 140 Special Courts for speedy disposal of the cases pending against MPs and MLAs. He has also demanded to know the steps taken by the Centre to fulfill the directions issued by the Apex Court in Public Interest Foundation's case.