New Delhi: Expressing concern over inordinate delays in completing investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate in cases against MPs and MLAs, the Supreme Court on Wednesday reiterated that no case against incumbent or former MPs or MLAs should be withdrawn by state governments without the prior approvals of the high courts in question.
Asking solicitor-general Tushar Mehta to ascertain the shortage of infrastructure and manpower impeding the time-bound completion of the investigation of cases against legislators by the two Central agencies, Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, heading a bench that also comprised Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant, however, said prima facie they don’t want to intervene in a plea for a lifetime ban on a legislator convicted of criminal offences, leaving it to Parliament to address the issue.
Senior lawyer Vikas Singh, appearing for a PIL petitioner, told the court that while a government job was barred for a bureaucrat if convicted in a corruption case of even Rs 10, an MP or MLA convicted for a criminal offence can join the electoral fray six years after their sentence was over.
However, at the end of the hearing, as Mr Singh sought to address the court on the question of barring convicted legislators from entering the legislatures for rest of their life, CJI Ramana asked him to conserve his energy to argue at a later stage, indicating that the issues need a detailed examination.
Describing the prevailing situation as a violation of Article 14, which guarantees the right to equality, Mr Singh told the court an official can be thrown out but an MP or MLA can come back to the legislature six years after conviction even in a heinous case.
In another matter, the court made it clear that its direction for a fast-track trial of sitting or former MPs or MLAs in criminal cases does not extend to giving them priority in the hearing of appeals by the high court against the order of conviction by a trial court.
The court said the hearing of appeals by high courts against the trial court orders would come in due course. However, the court clarified that a plea for the suspension of sentence can be heard swiftly.
On the withdrawal of cases against legislators. The court said it was “not against withdrawal of cases against MPs or MLAs if there was not sufficient material to prosecute or the prosecution itself was malicious, but it insisted that the approval of the high court was a must.
At the last hearing of the matter on August 10, the court, taking note of various state governments withdrawing a spate of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs, directed criminal cases against legislators cannot be withdrawn without the prior nod from the high court.
The court is hearing a PIL by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay that is seeking a lifetime ban on convicted legislators from entering the electoral fray and the holding of expeditious trials in cases against them.
The court left it to the respective high courts to pass orders to the trial courts for day-to-day hearings for an expeditious completion of the trials of MPs and MLAs facing criminal charges.
While senior lawyer Vijay Hansari, assisting as amicus curiae, urged the court to ask the high courts to pass “administrative orders” for the expeditious hearing of such criminal cases, solicitor-general Mehta told the court that administrative orders by the high courts may not suffice and urged the Supreme Court to pass orders in this regard.
However, Chief Justice Ramana said that everything can’t be done from New Delhi and felt it would be better to leave it to the high courts to take a call, including rationalisation of work and the cases to be allocated to each of the trial courts.