- In the landmark case of Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay & Ors. Vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court laid down directions to the subordinate court for the speedy deliverance of justice concerning criminal cases against the legislators.
- It gives directions regarding the priority of cases, the appointment of certain officers, a certain period within which the case should be concluded, directions if there is a stay granted, etc.
- The Apex court directed the High Courts to allot such cases to the trial courts to speed up the process.
- The Madras High Court recently directed the lower courts to dispose of such cases as quickly as possible.
The MPs and MLAs are wield authority and power. They have the power to influence people’s mind and society. And sometimes, power can make people do funny things. As we have seen, there are plenty of political entities who have criminal proceedings going on against them. Many times, these people also make use of their social position to get out of such situations. But the law is the same for everyone and hence they must be prevented from escaping their liabilities. A common man, who faces injustice because of the acts and deeds of the leaders has to be assured that they will receive justice.
There are Acts which are laid down for the very same purpose but those need to be implemented efficiently. This is in the hands of law enforcement. The Courts have the duty that if there’s a crime, it shouldn’t go unpunished. Necessary investigations and enquiries in the matters are ought to be undertaken to ensure justice.
The Supreme Court in this regard laid down directions in the case of Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay& Ors. Vs. Union of India of 2019 which was concluded in 2020. This article focuses on those guidelines and the recent order passed by the Madras High Court regarding the same.
GUIDELINES LAID DOWN IN ASHWINI KUMAR UPADHYAY & ORS. VS. UNION OF INDIA
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay & Ors. Vs. Union of India is a matter of public importance concerning inordinately delayed investigations and criminal trials pending against the legislators. The Top Court of India passed a slew of directions intending streaming and speedy dispensation of justice.
The Apex Court laid down the following guidelines in the said case:
1. Each High Court may assign or allocate criminal cases involving former and sitting legislators to a judicial officer in every district – both for Sessions as well Magisterial Courts as Special Court MP/MLA.
2. The High Courts are directed to prepare a blueprint for expeditious disposal of cases not later than 1 year for the conclusion of the trial. The Chief Justice of each High Court has to personally look into the matter and submit an action plan with the time that the Hon’ble Apex Court may deem fit and proper
3. The High Court reports have to include a mechanism for the expeditious trials of criminal cases against the legislators under special statutes including Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1980, Companies Act 2013, Negotiable Instrument Act, 1881, among others.
4. The High Courts have to designate a judicial officer for such cases, who will try these cases on a priority basis. He can be allotted other work, depending on the workload and nature of criminal cases on the legislators. The tenure of the judicial officer will be a minimum period of two years.
5. Cases involving sitting legislator should be given priority over former.
6. Adjournment has to be granted only in rare and exceptional cases on a written application stating the grounds for adjournment and for reasons to be recorded.
7. The Special Courts will have to give priority to the trial cases in the following order:
i. Offences of capital punishment or life imprisonment.
ii. Offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and the Money Laundering Act, 2002.
iii. Offences punishable under Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
iv. Offences punishable under POCSO Act 2012.
v. Offences punishable with imprisonment for 7 years or more.
vi. Other Offences.
8. In cases where there is a stay order granted, the matters should be taken up on a day-to-day basis and concluded within 2 or 3 months.
9. Registrar Generals may place the matters involving Legislators before the Hon’ble Chief Justice of High Court for appropriate orders.
10. Each district has to appoint a Nodal Prosecution Officer who will be responsible for ensuring the production of accused persons before the respective courts and the execution of NBWs issued by the Courts. The said officer will also be responsible for the service of summons to the witnesses, their appearance and deposition in the court. The said Officer will not be below the rank of Addl. Police Superintendent.
11. The High Courts have to submit a report regarding the establishment of a ‘safe and secure witness examination room’ in each court complex along with an internet facility to record evidence of witnesses through audio-visual conferencing.
DIRECTIONS OF MADRAS HIGH COURT
In accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court, the matter was placed before the Criminal Rules Committee, an advisory arm of the Top Court. The committee submitted a report on 5th October 2020, in the view of which the Supreme Court opined that the mreinformation from the High Courts is required concerning the number of special courts for disposing of pending criminal cases against the sitting or former legislators.
The petition prayed that the Hon’ble High Court of Madras may issue a writ a mandamus or any other writ or order for monitoring the progress of cases pending in Special Courts for the trial of Criminal Cases against MPs/MLAs in the State of Tamil Nadu to ensure compliance of directions of the Honourable Supreme Court of India.
Madras High Court Bench of Hon’ble Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy heard a suo moto writ petition where the Court had taken cognizance for monitoring the progress of the pending criminal cases against the MPs and MLAs. It was to ensure compliance with the directions laid down by the Top Court in Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay& Ors. Vs. Union of India. The suo moto proceedings were initiated in view of the orders passed by the Supreme Court to monitor criminal cases against MLAs and MPs.
The Madras High Court held that since the Benches have been set up and infrastructure and other aspects are in place, the suo moto proceedings need not be continued any further; all Courts hearing the criminal cases should deal with them expeditiously as the business of that Court might permit and ensure that the matters are brought to a logical conclusion without delay.
The Madras High Court recently directed the special courts to dispose of the cases relating to this matter as quickly as possible and the suo moto plea was closed.
The Madras High Court directed the Special Courts to hear pending criminal cases against MPs and MLAs to dispose of the cases as quickly as possible and closed the suo moto petition.
The Apex Court was of the opinion that special consideration regarding the criminal cases against the MPs and MLAs was required not only because of the rising wave of criminalization happening in politics but also regarding the fact that elected representatives wield power to influence or hamper effective prosecution.
Despite all the measures taken by the court in this regard, there has been no substantial improvement in the condition where pending criminal cases against the legislators, both former and sitting, are concerned.
However, such guidelines are of most importance as the political entities hold a position, have authority and possess power. Power can make people take the undue influence of it. So the guidelines laid down by the Apex Court in this regard is a step forward to ensure effective deliverance of justice.