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‘Three-Judge Panel of Madras HC Questions Validity of Special Courts To Try MPs, MLAs’

  • Category
    Polity
  • Published
    10th Nov, 2020

A three-judge committee of the Madras High Court has questioned the constitutional validity of setting up Special Courts to exclusively try

Context

A three-judge committee of the Madras High Court has questioned the constitutional validity of setting up Special Courts to exclusively try MPs and MLAs for various crimes, pursuant to the apex court’s orders for fast-tracking cases against lawmakers.

About

What are Special Courts?

  • The Supreme Court had in 2017 asked all states to set up special courts to expedite cases against legislators after noting that a huge number of sitting MP/MLAs had multiple criminal cases against them.
  • A Special Court shall consist of a single Judge who shall be appointed by the State Government with the concurrence of the High Court.

The numbers

  • On December 14, 2017, the Central Government constituted 12 special courts.
  • Accordingly, high courts were directed to transfer cases against MPs and MLAs to such special courts.
  • The States/UTs where 65 or more such cases are pending were to get a special court, as per the policy introduced by the Centre
  • As a result, Special Courts were set up in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi and three special courts at magisterial level in Maharashtra, Kerala and Delhi.

Key-points made by the Judges

The three-judge criminal rules committee of the High Court made the following points:

  • The Special Courts should be “offence-centric” and not “offender-centric.”
  • Special Courts can be constituted only by statute and not by ‘judicial or executive fiats’.
  • An MP/MLA, who commits an offense under the POCSO Act [or other Special Acts like Prevention of Corruption Act, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act] can only be tried by a Special Court created under the POCSO Act [PC Act, NDPS Act].
  • There cannot be another Special Court exclusively for the trial of an MP/MLA, who commits POCSO offense.

Background

  • The HC Committee report, dated October 13 is a part of the status report filed by amicus curiae Vijay Hansaria and advocate Sneha Kalita in the Supreme Court.
  • This comes in the face of a 2017 Supreme Court order authorizing the Centre to set up 12 Special Courts to exclusively try criminal politicians across the country.

What about other States?

  • The issue of statutory special courts has also been flagged by several other states. Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Punjab and Haryana, Telangana, Meghalaya and Kerala are among the states where the "special offences" such as sexual offences against children under POCSO Act, SC/ST Act have not been transferred to the "MP/MLAs courts" and remain before the statutory special courts.
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