Context: Recently, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India said that setting up of special courts to expeditiously try sitting and former MPs and MLAs accused of various crimes, will serve public interest and reestablish public faith in the judiciary.
More on the news:
- The Bench was considering a report filed by a committee of the Madras High Court that raised reservations over the setting up of special courts to exclusively try legislators for various offences.
- The committee report came in the face of a 2017 Supreme Court order authorising the Centre to set up 12 Special Courts to exclusively try criminal politicians.
Points in favour
Against (Madras HC committee)
- Huge pendency: There are more than 4000 cases pending against legislators across the country and out of this 2556 cases are pending against sitting MPs and MLAs.
- In Bihar, 89% Assembly constituencies have three or more candidates who have declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits for the ongoing elections.
- Wide range of cases against legislators: Which include corruption, money laundering, damage to public property, defamation, cheating etc.
- Violation of Section 188 IPC: For wilful disobedience and obstruction of orders promulgated by public servants.
- Courts should be “offence-centric” and not “offender-centric”: For example, An MP/MLA, who commits an offence under POCSO Act can only be tried by a Special Court created under the POCSO Act and there cannot be another Special Court exclusively for trial of an MP/MLA.
- Special courts can only be constituted by a statute and not by executive or judicial fiats.
- The existing Court structure is robust and more than enough to deal with the cases involving MPs and MLAs.
- Amending Representation of People’s Act: To debar persons against whom cases of a heinous nature are pending from contesting elections.
- Fast-track courts: Should decide the cases of tainted legislators quickly.
- Greater transparency in campaign financing: The Election Commission of India (ECI) should have the power to audit the financial accounts of political parties.
- Working of special courts has to be studied critically: Parameters such as the frequency and number of effective hearings and calculating the number of pending cases need to be developed.
- These are essential to check the growing number of special courts being established without definite purposes.
Hence, it is important to determine whether or not this special courts system is helpful in addressing the judicial backlog.
Special courts: They are established under a statute meant to address specific disputes falling within that statute.
Fast track courts: These were the result of recommendations made by the 11th Finance Commission to deal with the judicial backlog.
- They were actualised though an executive scheme as opposed to a statute of the legislature in case of special courts.
- Moreover these are meant to be set up by the State governments in consultation with the respective high courts.