From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Guidelines for Speedy Disposal of Cases against Lawmakers
- The Supreme Court has issued guidelines to ensure the quick resolution of criminal cases involving Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) across India.
- These guidelines aim to address the long-pending issue of lawmakers facing criminal charges.
- Advocate’s Plea: These directions were issued in response to a plea filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay in August 2016.
- Key Demands: Upadhyay’s plea sought the swift handling of cases involving legislators and a lifetime ban on convicted politicians, including those currently in office, instead of the existing six-year disqualification mentioned in Section 8(3) of the Representation of People Act, 1951.
Understanding the Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951
- Purpose: The RPA, 1951, introduced by Dr. BR Ambedkar, governs the conduct of elections to India’s parliament and state legislatures.
- Content: It covers various aspects, including qualifications and disqualifications for membership, corrupt practices, and offenses related to elections.
- Section 8: Section 8 of the RPA deals specifically with the disqualification of legislators on conviction for certain offenses, such as promoting enmity between groups, bribery, undue influence, and offenses related to hoarding, profiteering, or adulteration of food or drugs.
- Section 8(3): This subsection states that a person convicted of an offense and sentenced to imprisonment for at least two years will be disqualified from the date of conviction and continue to be disqualified for an additional six years after release. In essence, it imposes a six-year disqualification on individuals convicted of offenses with a minimum two-year prison sentence.
Supreme Court’s Ruling
- Guidelines for Speedy Disposal: The Supreme Court, led by CJI DY Chandrachud, laid down guidelines for the prompt resolution of pending criminal cases against lawmakers.
- Suo Motu Cases: High courts across India are directed to establish a “special bench” to oversee criminal cases involving legislators. High courts can also register such cases on their own initiative.
- Flexible Approach: The court allows the chief justices of high courts to hear these cases or designate specific benches for this purpose. These cases may be listed regularly if needed, and the special bench can seek assistance from the advocate general or prosecutor.
- High Court Role: To efficiently manage these cases, the Supreme Court leaves it to high courts to devise suitable measures.
- Priority Cases: The court emphasizes prioritizing cases against lawmakers that carry the possibility of death or life imprisonment. Cases with sentences of five years or more are also given priority.
- HC’s Authority: High courts are empowered to issue similar orders and directions for effective case disposal. They can involve the Principal District and Sessions Judge in allocating cases to appropriate courts.
- The Supreme Court’s guidelines are aimed at expediting the resolution of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs and ensuring justice is served promptly.
- While these guidelines address the issue of speedy disposal, the larger question of replacing the six-year disqualification with a lifetime ban remains open for future consideration.