The Supreme Court has been informed that a total of 121 cases are pending trial against sitting and former MPs/MLAs in special CBI courts across the country, and as many as 58 of them are punishable with life imprisonment. However, in over a third of the cases, the trial is moving at snail’s pace – charges have not been framed, though offences were committed several years back.
Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, appointed amicus curiae in a 2016 petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking direction to fast-tracking of criminal trials against sitting and former MPs/MLAs, has filed the report in the top court. He has been assisted by advocate Sneha Kalita in the matter.
Earlier, it was reported that that there were a total of 151 cases, but that was caused by a typo in the report, which was subsequently corrected.
The fourteenth report, in the matter, said: “It may be noted that out of 121 cases pending trial before the Special Courts, CBI, as many as 58 cases are punishable with life imprisonment. In 45 cases, even the charges have not been framed, though the offences alleged to have been committed several years back.”
The CBI has furnished a status report dated August 19, to the amicus mentioning the details of the cases pending trial before different CBI courts and those under investigation. The CBI cases pending investigation against MPs/MLAs are 37.
The oldest pending case is in Patna, where the accused was charge-sheeted on June 12, 2000. The report highlighted inordinate delay in several cases pending trial before CBI courts in different parts of the country.
As per details of the cases pending trial before different CBI courts, total number of MPs involved is 56, of which sitting MPs are 14, former MPs are 37, and expired MPs are five. Total number of MLAs involved in 121, including 34 sitting, 78 former 78, and nine expired.
According to the Enforcement Directorate’s status report, a total number of 51 Members of Parliament, both sitting and former, are accused in cases arising out of offences under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. However, the report does not show as to how many MPs/MLAs are sitting and/or former legislators.
The report suggested that courts before whom the trials are pending may be directed to expedite the trial of all pending cases on day-to-day basis in terms of Section 309 of the CrPC.
“All the High Courts may be directed to issue administrative instructions to the effect that the concerned courts dealing with cases investigated by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate shall deal with the cases pending before MPs/MLAs on priority basis and other cases shall be dealt only after the trial in these cases are over,” said the report.
The amicus suggested in case, additional courts are required, the high courts and the appropriate government shall constitute additional special courts.
The report further suggested that cases where investigations are pending before the ED and the CBI, a monitoring committee may be constituted comprising of the following: former judge of the top court or the former Chief Justice of a high court, the Director, ED (or his nominee not below the rank of Additional Director), the Director, CBI (or his nominee not below the rank of Additional Director), the Union Home Secretary (or his nominee not below the rank of Joint Secretary), and a judicial officer not below the rank of district judge to be nominated by the top court.
Amicus suggested the committee may be constituted within a period of two weeks of the order and it should furnish its status report regarding each particular case in a sealed cover to the top court within two months of its first sitting.
On August 10, the top court gave last opportunity to the Centre to submit a detailed status report regarding details of pendency and stage of trial of cases involving sitting and former lawmakers registered with the central agencies, CBI, and others.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Surya Kant had told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta: “We are reading these reports in newspapers. They don’t send us anything. We get everything in the evening; we don’t know anything”.
The CJI said in September last year, the court had granted time to Centre to file a detailed status report, then in October, again time was sought, and today, the situation is the same.
This does not work, he noted. “What else can we say to express our displeasure, we were told Centre is concerned about pending cases against MPs/MLAs”, he had added.