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SC ‘astonished’ at a lower court framing indictment against political leader after 36 years

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has expressed surprise at the framing of an indictment by a lower court after 36 years against a leader in Punjab. The criminal case was filed in 1983. The top court has commented that it was the duty of the prosecution to expedite the trial.

The apex court has sought information from all high courts on pending criminal cases against current and former MPs-MLAs. The court was informed by the amicus curiae that the country’s leaders are on trial in 4,442 cases. Of these, 2,556 accused are current MP-MLAs.

A bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, Surya Kant and Hrishikesh Roy said in its order that now the high courts will have to give details of the cases pending against leaders till September 12 through e-mails. These will be cases pending under special laws such as black money, anti-corruption law, money laundering prevention law. 

The bench will look into pending cases against current and former MPs-MLAs and may give necessary directions to the chief justices of high courts on September 16 regarding speedy trial of these cases.

Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria, who is playing the role of amicus curiae, during a video conference hearing on the PIL of BJP leader and Advocate Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay, apprised the bench of the situation and said that many criminal cases against politicians in states like UP and Bihar have been pending for decades. He specifically mentioned this particular case in Punjab. 

The report, compiled by Hansaria with the help of advocate Sneha Kalita, states that a crime took place in Punjab in 1983 for which there could be life imprisonment, but in this case, prosecutions have been set in 2019 after 36 years.

The bench expressed displeasure, saying: “This is astonishing. Why is the 1983 case still pending in Punjab?”

The bench also sought a response from the state’s advocate. When asked that this information can be obtained from another advocate of the state high court, the bench said:

“You are the government’s advocate. You, have to tell why this case has been pending since 1983. Are you not responsible for speedy trial?”

This case of Punjab is related to the murder of Dr Sudarshan Kumar Trehan.

Former Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Virsa Singh Voltoha was named as co-accused in his confession statement in this murder case. However, the Punjab Police delayed filing the supplementary charge sheet and the charges were set in 2019. 

The bench, meanwhile, took cognizance of the statement made by Upadhyay on behalf of Senior Advocate Vikas Singh and allowed him to amend the plea in the petition and seek reply from the Centre within six weeks.

This amended request states: “Defendant number-one (Centre) should be directed to set up Special Courts for matters relating to public representatives and public servants and decide them within a year and review the functioning of the constitution. 

“The Election Reforms proposed by the Commission constituted for the Commission, the 244th and 255th Reports of the Law Commission and the suggestions of the Election Commission should be implemented.”

The new petition has also requested to instruct the Center that it should take appropriate steps under the provisions of the public representation act to disqualify the ineligible persons from contesting elections or forming political parties or becoming their officials. Hansaria, in his affidavit, has also presented a list of cases in which cases of adjournment have been stayed due to adjournment orders of higher courts.

According to the report, the apex court and the High Courts have stayed the hearing of 352 cases. 413 cases pertain to offenses in which there is a provision of life imprisonment. Out of these, 174 cases include elected representatives. According to the report, Uttar Pradesh is the chart topper, where 1,217 cases are pending against law makers and out of these 446 such cases involve current law makers. Similarly, out of 531 cases in Bihar, the current law makers are accused in 256 cases.

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The affidavit suggested that each high court should ‘automatically’ file a case in its own name by a Special Court for MPs / MLAs to monitor the progress of such pending cases in the state and ensure compliance with the directions of the apex Court. It states:

“Each high court may nominate sessions courts and magistrates’ courts as required for hearing, in view of the number of cases relating to past and present law makers and the nature of the case”. 

The high court can take such a decision within four weeks of the order.

-India Legal Bureau

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