Five years, many faces: How the Rouse Avenue Court has dealt with cases against MPs and MLAs

Five years into the functioning of these special courts, it appears that they have not fulfilled the mandate for which they were set up - speedy adjudication of cases against legislators.
MPs and MLAs, Rouse Avenue Court
MPs and MLAs, Rouse Avenue Court

The Delhi High Court recently clarified that special courts dealing with cases against Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) in the national capital could also hear cases against former legislators.

The Court held the same while rejecting a former MLA's plea to quash a magistrate order rejecting his application for return of the complaint against him since he had ceased to be an MLA. While doing so, the Court held,

"...objective behind constituting the Special Courts to deal with cases filed against MPs/MLAs, sitting or former, was with a view to ensure that cases pending against them are tried expeditiously."

These special courts operating from the Rouse Avenue Sports Complex in Central Delhi will complete five years since their inauguration in April 2019. 

In the last half decade, these special courts have played a crucial role in adjudicating legal issues that have shaped the politico-legal landscape.

So how have these courts dealt with such cases in the recent past? Who are the big names involved in such cases? And what are their shortcomings?

First, we take a look at pending cases against legislators of opposition parties like the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), as well as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Cases against prominent MPs and MLAs

P Chidambaram
P Chidambaram

Former Union Minister P Chidambaram (INC) 

There are two cases against the veteran Congress politician before the special courts at Rouse Avenue - the INX Media case and the Aircel Maxis case. Along with his son Karti, the MP from Tamil Nadu’s Sivaganga constituency, has been accused of corruption, money laundering and criminal conspiracy by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

While the ED's case is at the stage of “scrutiny of documents” after filing of chargesheets, the CBI case will see arguments on charge. Both cases have been listed for hearing again in February.

DK Shivakumar
DK Shivakumar

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar (INC) 

The Karnataka politician was arrested by ED in 2019 after the agency alleged that he and his associates collectively held 317 bank accounts and had laundered money worth ₹200 crore. Besides, he was also accused of having benami properties worth over ₹800 crore in his name. 

The trial in this case is yet to begin and the next hearing in the case is on January 29.

Brij Bhushan Singh
Brij Bhushan Singh

MP Brij Bhushan Singh (BJP)

The former BJP MP and former Wrestling Federation of India head was dragged to the special court over allegations of sexual harassment by some women wrestlers.

Following the Delhi Police’s investigation, he has been charged of offences of outraging modesty of a woman, stalking and other crimes under the Indian Penal Code.

He was granted bail on July 20, 2023. While the State concluded its arguments on charge, the complainant addressed arguments on January 20 and 23. 

Manish Sisodia
Manish Sisodia

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia (AAP)

The Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi was arrested and jailed following his alleged involvement in a graft case related to Delhi’s Liquor Policy for 2021-22.

The allegations pertain to the creation of “intentional” loopholes in the policy when Sisodia was heading the Excise Department. These were allegedly meant to be exploited later in terms of favouring some licensees and conspirators post the tender process.

He sought bail from the special court, which dismissed his plea on April 28, 2023. Sisodia, who has been in jail for about a year now, has been thrice unlucky after the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court rejected his bail plea and the review of his bail dismissal order. 

Chargesheets and supplementary chargesheets have been filed in both cases, which are at the stage of scrutiny of documents.

Most recently Sisodia was allowed by the special court to visit his ailing wife once a week.

Lalu Prasad Yadav
Lalu Prasad Yadav

Former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD)

The former Bihar CM is facing four cases in the special court, including the IRCTC scam and the land for jobs scam cases. Prasad is alleged to have entered into a criminal conspiracy when he was the Railway Minister, with other accused persons for “undue pecuniary advantage to himself and others”. 

It is also alleged that between 2004 and 2009, he had given jobs to several people in Railways in lieu of lands, gifted or sold at cheap rates, either to his family members or close associates.

While the IRCTC scam case is at the stage of arguments on charge, the partied are scrutinising documents to fulfil a requirement of Section 207 of Code of Criminal Procedure. 

Tejashwi Yadav
Tejashwi Yadav

Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav (RJD)

Like his father, the RJD politician is accused in the same cases and has been accused of receiving pecuniary benefits by way of allotment of contracts of two IRCTC hotels in Ranchi and Puri to a private firm in 2006.

Tejashwi, his father and former Bihar CM Rabri Devi were granted bail in the jobs scam case by the special court in October 2023.

Satyendar Jain
Satyendar Jain

Former State Minister Satyendar Jain (AAP)

The CBI has accused Jain for reportedly acquiring movable properties in the name of various persons between 2015 and 2017, which he could not satisfactorily account for.

He was subsequently blamed for laundering money by the ED, which said that companies “beneficially owned and controlled" by Jain received accommodation entries amounting to ₹4.81 crore from shell companies against the cash transferred to Kolkata-based entry operators through a hawala route.

The special court will hear arguments on charge against Jain, who is currently out on medical bail.

Sanjay Singh
Sanjay Singh

MP Sanjay Singh (AAP)

The AAP lawmaker was arrested in the same Delhi liquor policy case as Sisodia. On January 4, the special court allowed Singh to file nomination papers for renewal of his Rajya Sabha membership.  

He was arrested by the ED on October 4, 2023 after the agency searched his residence. He has been in judicial custody since October 13.

The agency has accused Singh, who has been denied bail by the trial court earlier, of framing and implementing the now-scrapped Delhi Excise Policy.

Bhagat Singh Koshyari
Bhagat Singh Koshyari

Former Governor Maharashtra and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Bhagat Singh Koshyari 

Koshyari is facing a defamation case. It is alleged that in 2015, he wrote a “defamatory letter” to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs as a Rajya Sabha MP against the complainant, who is a proprietor of a hotel chain. 

He was summoned in the case by a special court but the Delhi High Court exempted him from appearing personally. The matter will come up on January 23, 2024 before the Rouse Avenue Court,” says his Advocate Akhilesh Singh Rawat. 

Rouse Avenue Courts - Genesis and functioning

In April 4, 2019, the directions of then Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon got the ball rolling for a newly-constructed, highly mechanised building meant to hear special cases.

The conceptualisation and establishment of the special courts at Rouse Avenue had some initial hiccups.

One of the critical issues Menon faced as the administrative head during this tenure was that a newly constructed building was lying vacant for over a year.

A visit to the vacant court building would reveal to Menon and his brother judges — Justice GS Sistani and Justice S Ravindra Bhat — a desolate but promising structure.

Justice GS Sistani and Justice S Ravindra Bhat
Justice GS Sistani and Justice S Ravindra Bhat

Also, the issue of carving out a new district amidst protests from a section of the Bar played on the minds of the stakeholders at that time. A meeting with lawyers and other stakeholders ironed out their concerns.

He felt that for the judiciary to get a building like this was next to impossible, given his experiences as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh and Patna High Courts.

"There, even to get a room from the State government is very difficult,” he added.

Rajendra Menon
Rajendra Menon

However, Justice Menon feels that the purpose for which the specially designated courts were set up - speedy trials in cases against lawmakers - is yet to be achieved.

It’s not being done the manner it should be done. It is still lingering on and various issues are there. I had instructed some of the judges to do day-to-day proceedings. What was happening is, one day two witnesses come, and then for two months nothing is happening. These are cases for you have a dedicated court for it, then why don't you go for day-to-day proceedings?”

The former Chief Justice suggested that the courts ought to conduct day-to-day hearings and finish off the evidence part within 15 days or 20 days.

But here what we are doing is we are not making a trial plan in the way normally it used to be for the session courts at one point of time when I was practicing around 25 years ago. The session judge, on the very first day when the charges are framed and the trial program is set in such a manner that on the very first day, all the prosecutors and the defense counsel and everybody will sit there and they will make out a plan,” he explained.

Pendency and speedy disposal

As the table below reveals, 110 cases against legislators are pending before the judges of the special courts.


In November 2023, the Supreme Court in Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India and Anr issued a slew of directions on how special courts should deal with cases of lawmakers.

The designated special courts — three sessions and three magistrate courts — were directed to first prioritise criminal cases against MPs and MLAs punishable with death or life imprisonment. Next on the priority list was cases punishable with imprisonment for five years or more.

These courts were also directed to not adjourn the cases except in “rare and compelling” circumstances. 

Following the directions of the apex court, in December 2023, the Delhi High Court issued a set of directions for expeditious and effective disposal of cases against lawmakers.

The Delhi High Court has been monitoring the early disposal of such cases and seeks regular reports from special courts from time to time.  

Many cases that would have an impact on India's political landscape linger on without completion of trial. And it is likely that many more will crop up in the foreseeable future.

Five years into the functioning of these special courts, it appears that they have not fulfilled the mandate for which they were set up — speedy adjudication of cases against legislators.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news