Fwd: [karmayog] Finish trial against MPs and MLAs in one year, Supreme Court orders
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Source: The Times of India
Finish trial against MPs and MLAs in one year, Supreme Court orders
The Supreme Court directed all trial courts, which are hearing cases of corruption and serious offences against MPs and MLAs, to strictly adhere to the one-year limit from framing of charges.
NEW DELHI: After ordering disqualification of MPs and MLAs immediately after conviction for heinous offences, the Supreme Court on Monday took a second big step towards cleansing the political process by directing that trial proceedings in cases of corruption and serious crimes against elected representatives must be completed within a year.
The apex court's July 10, 2013 judgment had robbed elected representatives of the benefit under Section 8(4) of Representative of People Act which allowed them to save their membership in respective Houses by merely filing an appeal within three months of the order of conviction.
However, "tainted" MPs and MLAs drew comfort from the snail-paced judicial process, hoping that cases against them would linger indefinitely, or that they could use delaying tactics to prevent the court from reaching a final conclusion about their alleged guilt and pronounce a judgment.
The order, passed by a bench of Justice RM Lodha and Justice Kurian Joseph, ends the last hope of MPs and MLAs of evading early adjudication of their alleged guilt and a possible conviction resulting in a sentence of more than two years or more, which generally follows in a corruption case or in serious offences.
Deadline to start after framing of charges
In its interim order on a PIL by NGO "Public Interest Foundation", the bench said, "Where sitting MPs and MLAs are facing corruption cases and other serious offences (which involve a punishment of more than two years on conviction), the trial will be completed expeditiously on a day-to-day basis and in no instance later than one year from the date of framing of charges."
This means, those who get elected in the coming general elections and have pending criminal and corruption cases against them, the verdict will be out before May next year. If found guilty and sentenced to more than two years imprisonment, they will immediately lose their membership. This order will also have a sanitizing effect on political parties and ensure that they do not field candidates with criminal background.
According to an estimate, the order will have a bearing on the political career of 162 MPs who are facing criminal charges.
The bench directed all trial courts, which are hearing cases of corruption and serious offences against MPs and MLAs, to strictly adhere to the one-year limit from framing of charges and warned that if they overshot the deadline, then they would have to give written explanation to the chief justice of the high court concerned.
"In extraordinary circumstances, where the trial court is not being able to conclude the trial within one year of framing charges, it would submit a report to the chief justice of the concerned HC indicating the special reasons for the delay. The chief justice may issue appropriate directions to the concerned court for extension of time for conclusion of trial," said Justice Lodha and Justice Joseph after additional solicitor general Paras Kuad agreed with the court's view on behalf of the Centre.
The bench took framing of charge as the starting point for fixing one-year time period for completion of trial keeping in mind the Law Commission's recommendation that filing of charge-sheet "is not an appropriate stage to introduce electoral disqualifications".
The commission said there was not sufficient application of judicial mind to the charges leveled by the investigating agency at the time of filing of charge-sheet. However, it recommended that framing of charges involved application of judicial mind to the charges and evidence.
The commission in its recommendation to the Union government on February 24 proposed disqualification of MPs and MLAs if a trial court framed charges against them in cases of corruption or heinous offences.
"The stage of framing of charges is based on adequate levels of judicial scrutiny, and disqualification at the stage of charging, if accompanied by substantial attendant legal safeguards to prevent misuse, has significant potential in curbing the spread of criminalization of politics," it recommended.
The commission also proposed to the government to introduce a provision in the RP Act making filing of false affidavits about personal antecedents along with nomination papers an offence punishable by imprisonment for not less than two years. This means, if an elected candidate gets convicted for filing false affidavits, then he would lose his seat in the House and get debarred from contesting elections for six years.__.