The state governments cannot withdraw criminal cases against sitting MPs and MLAs without prior sanctions from the respective high courts, the Supreme Court has said.
On August 7, a bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana and comprising Justices Vineet Saran and Surya Kant was hearing a 2016 plea by lawyer and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay on fast-tracking of criminal trials against lawmakers besides seeking a life ban on convicted politicians from contesting polls.
The Supreme Court bench made the statement based on a report laid by Amicus Curiae Vijay Hansaria on the status of trials against MPs and MLAs. Criminal cases pending against sitting and former MPs and MLAs registered a 17 per cent jump in less than two years, the report stated.
“There is an issue of withdrawal of cases against MPs and MLAs by the state government. The government of Karnataka gave orders to withdraw cases against 61 such leaders. In Uttarakhand, too, such an action was taken. No withdrawal of cases should be allowed without orders from the HC,” Vijay Hansaria stated in the report.
The Supreme Court bench also ordered that special courts judges, hearing cases against MPs and MLAs, not be transferred until further orders. It directed the Registrar Generals of all the high courts to provide information, in a particular format, about the cases decided by special courts against the lawmakers.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) to submit status of the cases against sitting MPs and MLAs. On this, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta reportedly told the court that while the ED filed a status report on August 6, CBI is yet to file its report.
“We can’t even say anything now. In more than words, we have expressed our displeasure. We don’t even know what to say now. This doesn’t work,” CJI Ramana said.
SG Tushar Mehta replied, “I understand. I’m asking for the last opportunity for the CBI and ED to file status reports.”
“When this matter started, we asked the government some serious questions. We were assured that the government was very serious about this issue and wanted to do something about it. But nothing has happened from your end. No progress. When you’re reluctant to even file status reports, what can you expect us to say?” CJI Ramana said.
SG Tushar Mehta replied, “It’s not reluctance. It may be lack of coordination. I stand by what the government said – we are committed to resolving this.”
CJI Ramana said a special bench needs to be constituted to monitor cases against sitting MPs and MLAs.