The Supreme Court has ordered that no unnecessary adjournments should be granted in criminal cases pending against legislators across the country.
The court said that the Witness Protection Scheme, 2018 should be enforced by the concerned courts. It also reiterated the earlier directions issued on September 16 regarding vacation of stay that may have been granted by the High Courts. The court clarified that these directions are applicable to cases involving both sitting as well as former legislators (MPs and MLAs).
The bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose was considering the PIL filed by Ashwini Upadhyay raising the issue of pendency of criminal cases against legislators. The court noted the report submitted by various High Courts and the report submitted by the Amicus Curiae Sr. Adv Vijay Hansaria.
The Amicus Curiae made the following submissions:
1) For the efficacious disposal of these cases, robust video conferencing facilities and upgradation of infrastructure is necessary.
(2) It is imperative to appoint Nodal Prosecution Officers who will be responsible to ensure that arrest warrants are being executed, accused are being produced regularly, summons are being served and so on.
(3) The tenure of judicial officers dealing with the aforesaid cases is at least 2 years in order to ensure continuity,
(4) the judicial officers should follow effective case management strategies and should not grant unnecessary adjournments which might lead to delay.
The court, as of now, issued the following directives:
- The Witness Protection Scheme, 2018, approved by this Court in the case of Mahender Chawla v. Union of India, (2019) 14 SCC 615 should be strictly enforced by the Union and States and WP(C)No.699/16 10 Union Territories. Keeping in mind the vulnerability of the witnesses in such cases, the Trial Court may consider granting protection under the said Scheme to witnesses without their making any specific application in this regard.
- We have already passed directions with respect to vacation of stay that may have been granted by the High Courts vide order dated 16.09.2020. In that order, we had directed the Chief Justices of the High Courts to list the matters relating to the aforementioned cases before an appropriate bench, and to decide on any issue relating to stay by keeping in view the principles laid down by this Court in Asian Resurfacing of Road Agency Private Limited v. CBI, (2018) 16 SCC 299. Recently the law as stated in the above case has been reiterated by a three-Judge Bench of this Court vide order dated 15.10.2020 in Miscellaneous Application No. 1577 of 2020 in Criminal Appeal Nos. 1375-1376 of 2013 [Asian Resurfacing (supra)], wherein the Court has held as follows: "We must remind the Magistrates all over the country that in our pyramidical structure under the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court is at the Apex, and the High Courts, though not subordinate administratively, are certainly subordinate judicially. This kind of orders fly in the face of para 35 of our judgment. We expect that the Magistrates all over the country will follow our order in letter and spirit. Whatever stay has been granted by any court including the High Court automatically expires within a period of six months, and unless extension is granted for good reason, as per our judgment, within the next six months, the trial Court is, on the expiry of the first period of six months, to set a date for the trial and go ahead with the same." (emphasis supplied) The above pronouncements must be followed with full rigor by all the Courts.
- Keeping in mind the public interest involved in these matters, and in order to prevent undue delay, we direct that no unnecessary adjournments be granted in these matters.
- At the cost of repetition, it is clarified that the directions in the present writ proceedings are applicable to both sitting as well as former legislators (MPs and MLAs)
The court also directed the High Court of Kerala to furnish a list of cases to the Chief Secretary/ Director General of Police where the warrants are not being executed. Similarly High Court of Calcutta has been directed to give a list of cases about the non-execution of warrants against the sitting and former legislators (MPs/MLAs) to the counsel appearing on behalf of the State of West Bengal. The Karnataka was directed to file an affidavit regarding the sufficiency of the designated Special Court to deal with the pending cases in a timely manner.
The court has posted the case after two weeks for considering further suggestions mooted by Amicus.
CASE: ASHWINI KUMAR UPADHYAY vs. UNION OF INDIA [Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s).699/2016]CORAM: Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose