The Supreme Court on Tuesday imposed hefty fines on eight political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, for not disclosing the details of criminal cases against their candidates.
The eight political parties were held guilty of failing to comply with the Court's earlier directions on making criminal antecedents of election candidates public, during Bihar polls.Â The top court in its judgment today slapped a fine of Rs 1 Lakh each on BJP, Congress, JDU, RJD, LJP and CPI and Rs 5 Lakh on NCP and CPM.
Despite strict monitoring and directions, the number of pending cases against Members of Parliament and MLAs increased from 4,122 cases in December 2018 to 4,859 in September, 2020, the Supreme Court was informed on Tuesday.
Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, appointed amicus curiae by the apex court to assist it in a PIL for fast-tracking criminal cases against lawmakers, flagged several reasons for increase in pendency such as state governments ordering withdrawal of cases, jurisdiction of special courts and fixed tenure of two years for judicial officers presiding the special courts for MPs and MLAs.
The amicus curiae's report, filed through advocate Sneha Kalita, said that in Bihar, which has been submitting monthly status reports, there were 557 cases in September 2020 and the figure increased to 582 cases in July 2021.
The 13th report by the amicus on pendency of cases against lawmakers was taken on record by a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana and several directions were passed.
The report further said that despite express direction from the top court, âno report has been submitted by the Union of India, on the issue of status of pending cases with the Central Enforcement Agencies and on the funding of establishment of video conferencing facilities in the Statesâ.Â Â
Dealing with withdrawal of cases ordered by various state governments, Hansaria told the court that withdrawal of prosecution under section 321 CrPC is permissible in public interest and cannot be done for political consideration.
âSuch application can be made in good faith, in the interest of public policy and justice and not to thwart or stifle the process of law,â he said, adding, âIn view of the facts and submission made, this Court may be pleased to direct that no prosecution against a Member of Parliament and or Legislative Assembly/ Council shall be withdrawn without leave of the High Court...â
On fixed tenure, Hansaria said that during the last one year no effective trials had been conducted in view of the pandemic situation but with the improvement of ground situation, the Courts have started trials by recording evidence and hearing arguments.Â Â
âIt is submitted that to ensure expeditious disposal of the pending cases, this Court may be pleased to direct that the officers presiding over the Special Courts MP/MLS shall continue on their posts for a period of two years unless the post fall vacant on account of death, retirement,â the status report said.Â Â
The amicus sought direction to the Director, CBI and Director, Enforcement Directorate to submit a status report of cases against MPs and MLAs/MLCs regarding stage of investigation and expected time for completion of the investigation and reasons for delay in the same.
He also sought to know the details of cases pending for grant of sanctions for prosecution, if any and details of appointment of Nodal Prosecution Office in terms of the submissions recorded in orders dated September 19, 2020 and November 4, 2020.
âThe Central Government may be directed to make necessary funds available for the purpose of establishment of âSafe and Secure Witness Examination Roomâ in each court complex with availability of internet facility for the purpose of recording evidence of the witnesses through video conferencing,â the report said.
Hansaria said that each of the high courts shall send an estimate to the Secretary, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India within one month and the Centre shall make the fund available within one month of the proposal received from the High Court.Â Â
He said that this court may be pleased to direct that no prosecution shall be withdrawn under section 321 CrPC against a Member of Parliament or a Member of Legislative Assembly/ Council (sitting and former) without leave of the High Court.Â Â
âTo ensure expeditious disposal of the pending cases, this Court may be pleased to direct that the officers presiding over the Special Courts MP/MLA shall continue on their posts for a period of two years unless the post fall vacant on account of death, retirement etc,â it said.
A separate report has also been filed by the Enforcement Directorate saying that 122 sitting and former lawmakers are facing prosecution under Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The 122 names include political leaders from various political parties including from DMK, Congress, National Conference, Indian National Lok Dal, and even ruling BJP leaders.
With PTI inputs