SC expedites criminal trials against lawmakers
Supreme Court fast-tracks criminal trials for MPs and MLAs
In response to a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay in 2016, the Supreme Court has directed high courts across India to expedite criminal trials against current and former Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs). The court, led by Chief Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, emphasized effective monitoring and prioritization of cases with the possibility of death sentence or life imprisonment.
Uniform timeline unattainable, but Special Bench implementation
While acknowledging the impracticality of establishing a uniform timeline for disposal, the court directed chief justices of all high courts to register suo motu proceedings for monitoring and expediting trials within their jurisdiction. The special bench, either led by high court chief justices or nominated judges, will list cases at regular intervals.
Prioritizing serious offenses and ensuring transparency
The court specified that cases with potential death penalty or life term should be given priority, followed by those with jail terms exceeding five years. High courts are instructed to list cases with stayed trials and expedite them. Additionally, the court emphasized the provision of sufficient infrastructure for trial courts and the creation of an independent tab on high court websites to make case details public.
The directive stems from the petition filed by Ashwini Upadhyay, seeking suitable measures to hasten criminal trials against MPs and MLAs. A report by amicus curiae Vijay Hansaria highlighted the urgency, with 5,175 pending cases, 40% of which have been stagnant for over five years. The court's previous 2014 judgment mandated the completion of trials against elected lawmakers within a year of charges being framed, with provisions for extensions under reasonable circumstances.