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Supreme Court gives High Courts two days' time to update amicus curiae in pending cases against MPs, MLAs under special legislation

Petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has amended his prayer and sought a lifetime ban on MPs and MLAs, irrespective of the term of penalty.

Debayan Roy

The Supreme Court has directed the High Courts to submit reports on pending cases against Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) under special laws within two days.

All High Courts apart from the High Courts of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Jharkhand and Guwahati have been asked to submit the reports.

The laws in purview are the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, the Excise Act, 1944, the Customs Act, 1962, the Central Goods and Service Tax Act, 2017 and the Companies Act, 2013.

The Court has taken note of the report by amicus curiae and Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria, which stated that around 4,442 cases, are currently pending against MPs and MLAs (sitting and former).

The Bench of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah stated,

"Nearly 413 of the above cases pertain to offences punishable with life imprisonment, out of which 174 cases are against sitting MPs and MLAs. He [Hansaria] also pointed out that there were drastic delays in the disposal of the aforesaid cases."

Supreme Court

The three-judge Bench expressed shock on finding out the number of pending cases in West Bengal and Punjab since the 1980's.

"For example, in the States of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, there are pending cases relating to the year 1991. Shockingly, in the States of West Bengal and Punjab, there are pending cases pertaining to the years 1981 and 1983 respectively."

In a related development, petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has amended his prayer and sought a lifetime ban on MPs and MLAs, irrespective of the term of penalty.

The Bench today issued notice in the amended prayer and has asked the Centre to reply in six weeks.

The amicus curiae report filed in the Apex Court through Advocate Sneha Kalita is in pursuance to the directions issued by the Supreme Court in the PIL filed by Upadhyay seeking the speedy disposal of criminal cases against former and present MPs and MLAs. High Courts across the country had been directed to compile a list of criminal cases against former and present legislators.

The affidavit states that the Court, by its order dated March 5, 2020, had directed the Registrars General of all High Courts to furnish information regarding cases pending against MPs/MLAs. In terms of the said order, all the High Courts have sent the information in the prescribed format.

As per the amicus' report, there are 413 cases involving offences that are punishable with imprisonment for life. Sitting MPs/MLAs are accused in 174 of these cases.

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