The Supreme Court recently asked High Courts to set up special benches for quick trials against MPs and MLAs.
More about the news
Pending cases against MPs & MLAs:
The SC noted that “as many as 5,175 subject cases (were) pending” against MPs and MLAs “as of November 2022”.
Supreme Court’s directives for quick trials:
Special benches: The Supreme Court has asked High Courts to set up special benches to monitor trials in over 5,000 such cases for their speedy disposal.
Prioritising cases:A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said criminal cases:
“Punishable with death or life imprisonment” should be given priority,
Followed by “cases punishable with imprisonment for five years or more, and then other cases”.
Condition for adjournment: The bench has also said that the trial should not be adjourned, except for rare and compelling reasons.
Registration & hearing of case:In its directions, the SC asked the HC Chief Justices to register a suo motu case with the title, “In Re designated courts for MPs, MLAs”,
The case may be heard by the Chief Justice, or a bench assigned by him.
Ensuring infrastructure facility: The apex court has asked the principal district and sessions judge to ensure sufficient infrastructure facility for the designated court and enable it to adopt the necessary technology for effective and efficient functioning.
Significance of the move:
Apex court has noted that criminal cases pending against members of Parliament and State Legislatures “have a direct bearing on our political democracy”.
Confidence and trust of the constituency in their political representative, be it an MP or MLA, is necessary for aninteractive, efficient and effective functioning of a parliamentary democracy.
However, such confidence is difficult to expect when figures, as indicated in the above referred table, loom large in our polity.
Criminalization of Politics
Meaning: It means the participation of criminals in politics. This means that persons with criminal backgrounds contest in the election and get selected as a member of parliament or state legislature
Criminalization of political parties is a result of the connection between criminals and politicians and vote-bank politics
Lack of enforcement of laws and judgments
lack of ethics, and values, and loopholes in the function of the election commission.
It is also linked to political control of state machinery and corruption
The political system is unwilling to change the law or the system.
Issues of Criminalization of Politics
Elected members with criminal records:
Nearly 40 percent of members of the current Parliament have criminal cases pending against them.
Most of them do not feel vulnerable or threatened as they are aware that it will take years for trials to conclude.
Question of safety & security:
The main purpose of governance is to provide safety and security to citizens who elect their representatives for this role.
But if the elected members themselves have criminal records, would they be interested in a criminal justice system that is prompt and efficient?
Low conviction rate:
As per theNational Crime Records Bureau’s 2021 report, only 10,416 cases of murder were disposed of during the year with just a 42.4 per cent conviction rate.
The Law minister has admitted to more than 4.7 crore cases pending in various courts.
Situation in police stations:
Politicians play a very powerful role at police stations, compromising both the integrity and impartiality of field staff.
In due course, ordinary criminals graduate to be dreaded ones and form gangs extorting money, grabbing land, threatening witnesses in criminal cases, etc.
Suggestions & way ahead
In this bleak scenario, our reaction as citizens should be to demand more courts, judges and judicial infrastructure and not to encourage “encounters”, which we seem to be applauding.
Stopping the electability of criminals:
Checking the nexus between crime, money, and muscle power will be among the first few steps required to be taken.
The growing dependence of political parties on criminals for muscle power and “electability” must be stopped.
It is high time all political parties came together and developed a consensus on keeping criminals — some with serious charges including kidnapping, rape, murder, grave corruption, and crimes against women — out of the system.
Voters also need to be vigilant about the misuse of money, gifts, and other inducements during election.
Efficient Use of technology:
The use of technology as often stated by the current Chief Justice of India, is a potent weapon to ensure speedy trials.
Citizens need to build up public opinion for the introduction of online court hearings at all levels.
Courts shall curtail frequent adjournments and reduce the trial duration. Court production of jail inmates can also be online and relieve police from escort duties.
For minor ailments, telemedicine facilities can be used for persons in custody.
This will result in more police persons being available on the ground.
Regular training of Police force:
Police officers need to be regularly trained about the Constitution and human rights so that they do not resort to their guns.
It is unfortunate that after their basic police training, very few officers undergo in-service courses either in law or investigation.
Of late, online training is becoming popular in many state police organisations.
As per the Bureau of Police Research and Development, vacancies in police all over the country range at around 20 percent. Police station officers are thus reluctant to relieve their field stafffor training in police academies.