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SC seeks response on special courts to try MPs & MLAs
November, 05th 2011

In what could supplement the government's proposal to bring in stringent legislative measures to decriminalize politics, the Supreme Court on Friday entertained a PIL filed by former chief election commissioner J M Lyngdoh for creating special courts for exclusive and expeditious trial of criminal cases pending against sitting MPs and MLAs.

A bench of Justices P Sathasivam and J Chelameswar said the PIL raised an important issue and needed to be examined by the apex court. It issued notices to the Centre, the states and the secretariats of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha asking them to file their responses in four weeks.

The petitioners said nearly a third of MPs and MLAs had criminal background and yet by dragging and delaying the trial before courts, which were facing heavy pendency, they continued to remain in politics without facing the consequences.

Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan said fast-tracking of criminal cases against MPs and MLAs was essential for maintaining purity in politics and governance as the adage "innocent till proven guilty" was illegally taken advantage of and the accused continued to remain in political posts by keeping the court cases dragging for decades.

Under the Representation of People Act, a person is disqualified from contesting elections if he is convicted in a criminal case and sentenced to more than two years imprisonment. But pendency of the criminal case does not hinder a person from contesting an election.

The law ministry is proposing to bring in radical changes in the existing electoral laws to put a ban on contesting of elections by those against whom prosecution has filed chargesheet in serious and heinous offences like murder, acts of terrorism, rape and dacoity among others.

The petitioners, including former top cop J F Ribeiro, said, "We have long witnessed criminals being wooed by political parties and given executive posts, especially in state governments, because their muscle and money power fetches crucial votes. Elections are won or lost on swings of just 1% of the votes, so parties cynically woo every possible vote bank, including those headed by accused robbers and murderers. Legal delays ensure that the accused will die of old age before being convicted, so parties virtuously insist that these persons must be regarded as innocent till proven guilty."

The petitioners also said that it was time to implement the recommendations made by the expert committee headed by former CJI M N Venkatachaliah, which reviewed the working of the Constitution. It had recommended disqualification of persons from contesting elections once he was charged with an offence punishable with imprisonment of five years or more.

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