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Speedy Disposal of Cases Against Lawmakers


The Supreme Court has issued guidelines aimed at expediting the disposal of criminal cases involving Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs).


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Speedy Disposal of Cases Against Lawmakers
  2. Representation of the People Act, 1951: Key Provisions

Speedy Disposal of Cases Against Lawmakers:

The Supreme Court has instructed chief justices of high courts to establish special benches dedicated to overseeing and expediting the resolution of pending criminal cases involving MLAs and MPs.

Judgement by the Supreme Court:

The guidelines, directed to high courts nationwide, include:
  • Special Bench Establishment:
    • The setup of a special bench dedicated to monitoring criminal cases against legislators.
  • Suo Motu Registration:
    • High Courts are instructed to initiate suo motu registration of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs for more effective oversight.
Guidelines for Monitoring Pending Cases:
  • Chief justices of high courts are directed to register suo motu cases to facilitate the swift resolution of pending criminal cases against lawmakers.
  • Special benches, led by the Chief Justice or designated by them, can hear such cases.
  • Regular listing of these cases at appropriate intervals is encouraged.
  • The special bench has the authority to seek assistance from the advocate general or prosecutor.
  • Priority is to be given to cases against lawmakers punishable by death or life imprisonment.
  • Cases with a punishment of 5 years or more will also receive priority.

High Courts’ Role:

  • The Supreme Court acknowledges the difficulty in providing uniform guidelines for trial courts nationwide and delegates the responsibility to high courts to formulate effective measures for monitoring such cases.

Additional Roles of High Courts:

  • High courts are empowered to issue similar orders and directions for the efficient resolution of cases.
  • Principal District and Sessions Judges can be called upon by high courts to allocate “subject cases” to specific courts.

Section 8(3) of RP Act:

  • The issue of replacing the 6-year ban with a lifetime ban, through an amendment to Section 8(3) of the RP Act, is left open for future consideration.

Representation of the People Act, 1951: Key Provisions

The RP Act 1951 predates the first general elections and governs the conduct of elections in India.

It encompasses various aspects of elections, including the actual conduct, administrative machinery, polls, election offences, disputes, by-elections, and the registration of political parties.

Provisions on Disqualification under the RPA:
  • Several provisions in the RPA address disqualification issues.
  • Section 8 deals with disqualification for the conviction of offences.
  • Section 8(1A) specifies certain offences like promoting enmity, bribery, and undue influence at elections.
  • Section 8(2A) lists offences related to hoarding, profiteering, and adulteration, with a minimum sentence of six months under the Dowry Prohibition Act.
  • Section 8(3A) disqualifies a convicted person sentenced to imprisonment for at least two years, continuing for an additional six years post-release.
  • Section 9 deals with disqualification for dismissal for corruption or disloyalty, and Section 9(A) covers disqualification for government contracts.
  • Section 10 pertains to disqualification for office under a government company, while Section 10(A) addresses failure to lodge election expense accounts.
  • Section 11 covers the removal or reduction of the period of disqualification, and Section 11(A) addresses disqualification arising from conviction and corrupt practices.
  • Section 11(B) deals with the removal of disqualifications.
Statistics on Cases Against Lawmakers:
  • Around 5,175 cases involving accusations against MLAs and MPs are pending across the country.
  • Approximately 40% of these cases, totaling 2,116, have been pending for over five years, with Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Maharashtra having the highest numbers.
  • A report reveals that 40% of sitting MPs face criminal cases, with 25% accused of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, and crimes against women.
Background of the Case:
  • Initiated by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay in August 2016, the plea sought the expedited resolution of cases involving lawmakers.
  • It advocated for a lifetime ban on convicted politicians, including sitting legislators, instead of the existing six-year ban under Section 8(3) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, which imposes a ban on individuals convicted of specific offences with a minimum two-year sentence.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023