The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Union to file an affidavit within two weeks, indicating its stand and on the merits concerning plea seeking setting up of Special Courts to try criminal cases of MPs and MLAs expeditiously.
A bench led by Justice NV Ramana also directed the Centre to file a reply on whether funds could be effectuated to High Courts for infrastructural facilities so that expeditious disposal of cases can be done.
The Centre was given two weeks to file a reply. High Courts of Calcutta, Madras & Kerala were also asked to file fresh affidavits.
Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria (Amicus) apprised the court regarding the Reports of various High Courts in terms of steps taken, cases pending as well as further plan of action.
Hansaria also put forth suggestions to the Court.
"My submission is that Judicial officers appointed for trying criminal MP/MLA cases must continue for a specific period of 2 years, The whole problem of delay is due to prosecution not being present. No HC has opposed the request I made which will go a long way in fastracking the cases. The request I made was that all state governments can appoint nodal prosecution officers for these special courts who will be responsible for proceedings such as summons etc" said Hansaria
Next, he stated that Criminal cases Involving sitting legislators must be given priority as against former legislators. "They are law makers. If they have murder cases pending against them, they shouldn't be making laws for us. This is in public interest," he added.
Further, he stated that Special Public Prosecutors must be appointed by the Court to take up the cases. He also added that witness protection is essential as regards the vulnerability of witnesses. "Trial cases can consider appointing protection to witnesses without making an application. Trial courts taking up criminal cases against MP's/MLA's must give protection to witnesses," he said,
Then, Hansaria pointed towards the objection raised by Madras HC regarding the constitutionality of setting up Special Courts.
"Objection being raised in Madras HC, regarding setting up of special court per district viz. constitutionality," said Hansaria
At this juncture, Justice Ramana remarked:
"Now we travelled long years and a number of orders were passed. Except for the HC of Madras, no HC has raised an objection regarding constitution of special courts. We'll deal with it after some time, which will be rectified, we can't stop on the basis of a mistake by MAHC.
Hansaria told the Court that HC's were short of funds for conducting VC Hearings and providing rooms for witness examination. He added that funds must come in from the Centre.
Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan appeared for the petitioner and told the court that even though orders were passed for expeditious disposal of cases within one year, the same had not been done till date.
Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay informed court that even though the ASG had earlier consented on behalf of the Centre, to the application seeking setting up of special courts, the same had still not been done.
Filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the Application states that the writ petition was filed with the "object to set up Special Courts to try criminal cases of MPs and MLAs and for utmost expeditious disposal of those cases".
It is alleged that despite the Court having consistently passed orders for setting up of fast track courts for speedy disposal of cases against MPs and MLAs, "political persons are leaving no stone unturned to defeat the purpose" and that the "State has failed to prioritise the issue of speedy disposal of cases against MPs or MLAs".
The Application submits that on 1.11.2017, the Apex Court had directed the Central Government to lay down a scheme for setting up of these fast-track courts. In pursuance of this Order, a scheme was proposed to set up 12 fast-track courts and the same was approved by the Supreme Court on 14.12.2017.
State Governments in consultation with respective High Courts were also directed to set up these courts and the High Courts were granted power to trace the case records of Trial Courts and transfer them to the respective Special Court.
It is alleged in the Application that the State of Tamil Nadu has always adopted an approach to frustrate the orders of the Court. On filing an IA to direct the Madras High Court to transfer these cases, the Supreme Court granted the prayer of the Petitioner.
However, instead of establishing fast-track courts, the State of Tamil Nadu has constituted two Special Courts in the cadre of Special Judge and one additional Special Court in the cadre of Assistant Session Judge for Chennai District.
"In addition to these Special Courts the Government has also designated Principle District and Session Court in every Session Division in the State of Tamil Nadu for the trial of session cases and cases under Special Acts involving elected MPs and MLAs. Besides this, the Government has also designated a Judicial Magistrate Court for each District in Tamil Nadu for the trial of magisterial cases involving elected MPs and MLAs. These Courts are dealing with other matters as well. It is frustrating the directions of this Hon'ble Court as the cases of MPs and MLAs are treated like other cases and no effective hearing is done."
The Application has also highlighted the fact that in many cases, the MPs and MLAs approach the High Courts or the Supreme Court to get a stay on their matters. Many cases are also delayed due to lack of appearance of the accused on the date of hearing.
In light of the above, the Application prays for directions to the Registrar General of the Madras High Court to ensure judges are appointed to Special Courts, monitor the day-to-day progress of cases pending before Special Courts, dispose of revisions and appeals preferred by accused on expedited basis and to ensure that all cases involving MPs and MLAs are transferred to Special Courts.
Directions to State of Tamil Nadu are also sought for in order to establish exclusive Special Courts in every district, exclusively for trial of cases involving MPs and MLAs. Therefore, it is prayed that an order or a direction to adjudicate these cases within one year is passed.