[Criminal cases against MPs/MLAs] "It is easy to say expedite trial, but where are the judges?" Supreme Court

The Court noted that investigating agencies like CBI and ED are also facing shortage of manpower.
Vacancies of Judges
Vacancies of Judges

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that though directions can be passed for expediting trials of cases against Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), implementing such directions will not be easy due to the shortage of judges (Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India).

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, however, said that the sword should not be kept hanging over the heads of such accused law makers, and that a policy should be evolved to avoid inordinate delays in trials.

"It is easy to say expedite this and expedite that, but where are the judges?" the Court remarked.

The Court also said that while it does not want to demoralise investigating agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the replies by these agencies have at places not explained reasons for delay in trials.

"We don't want to say anything about agencies as we don't want to demoralize them. Else this speaks volumes. There are 300 to 400 cases in these CBI courts. How to do all of this? Sorry to say Mr Mehta (Solicitor General Tushar Mehta), the report is inconclusive. There is no reason for not filing chargesheet for 10 to 15 years. Simply attaching properties does not serve any purpose," the Court remarked.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that an outer limit should be fixed for completion of investigation and for conclusion of trial.

"Wherever probe is underway, direct the investigation to be over in 6 months outer limit, a mandatory time can be set in for the conclusion of trial..." he said.

The Court was hearing a plea by BJP leader and Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking speedy trial in cases against MPs and MLAs by setting up of special courts.

Amicus Curiae Vijay Hansaria had submitted a report to the Court containing details on the status of trials against legislators. He had also made various suggestions to ensure that such trials are concluded expeditiously.

The Court on Wedensday noted how the investigating agencies are constrained by a shortage of manpower.

"CBI, ED directors can inform how much additional manpower is required," said Justice Surya Kant.

"Manpower is a real issue. Just like us, investigating agencies are also suffering with this issue. Everyone wants a CBI Investigation you see," CJI Ramana added.

The Court after examining the Amicus report noted that there are 121 cases pending trial before different CBI Courts involving sitting MPs and Ex­MPs and 112 cases involving sitting MLAs and ex ­MLAs.

"Out of that, 37 cases are still at the investigation stage, the oldest being registered on 24th October 2013. The details of cases pending trial unveil that there are several cases in which the charge sheet was filed as far back as the year 2000, but are still pending either for appearance of accused, framing of charges or prosecution evidence," the order passed by the Court noted.

The Court, therefore, directed that CBI should take necessary steps to secure appearance of the accused and provide necessary assistance to the CBI Courts for framing charges and to proceed further to conclude the trials.

"We direct that each High Court shall take necessary steps to expedite the pending trials and conclude the same within the time frame already fixed by previous orders," the apex court further ordered.

The Court also said that there is an urgent need to rationalize the establishment of special/ CBI Courts, as it may not be "humanly possible" for one or two courts in a State to expedite all the trials or take up the same on a day to ­day basis.

The special/CBI Courts need to be set up in different parts of the State where more than 100 cases are pending to ensure easy accessibility to the witnesses and de­congestion of existing special/CBI Courts, the Court added.

"We, thus, direct the Central Government as well as State Governments to provide necessary infrastructural facilities to the High Courts for the purposes of establishment of additional CBI/Special Courts," the Court ordered.

[Read Order]

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