'Expediting MPs' trials will delay other cases'

'Expediting MPs' trials will delay other cases'

The Supreme Court on Friday disapproved of a plea to fast-track cases involving MPs.

It also asked the Centre to work out a comprehensive policy for speeding up the entire criminal justice delivery system.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, said fast-tracking only one category of cases would not show desired results, but would rather delay other matters. In a separate order, the apex court, in March, had directed for completion of trials against sitting MPs and MLAs within a year of framing of charges.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in June, had asked the Home and Law Ministries to prepare a blueprint for completion of trials of politicians, especially legislators, in a year.

“There is a demand that criminal trials involving MPs should be fast-tracked. Fast-tracking of one type of cases cannot be (done) at the cost of other kind of cases. For how long we will keep on taking out one category of cases and create special courts,” asked the bench that includes Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman.

Hearing a PIL filed by senior advocate Bhim Singh, relating to repatriation of Pakistani prisoners languishing in jails despite serving their sentence, the court expressed concern over the pace of the justice delivery system.

The court asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to tell within four weeks if the government was formulating any plan to expedite criminal trials and if so, what were the steps proposed to be taken in this regard.

“Fast-tracking of cases without creation of additional courts and infrastructure creates more burden of the cases left out from the fast-tracking system. For good governance, it is necessary that courts are strengthened and criminal justice (system) is fast-tracked,” the court said.

“It is high time that the Centre took steps in consultation with the state governments for fast-tracking criminal justice system so that cases can be decided expeditiously. It is not a good sign for democracy that criminal cases remain pending for years,” the bench added.

Favouring fast-tracking of criminal justice system, the court asked the Attorney General to convene a meeting of all Law Secretaries and Chief Secretaries for the purpose.

“I have my own limitation as Chief Justice of India as I cannot constitute more courts. I have written to the chief justices of the high courts, too, for fast-tracking cases involving senior citizens and women but they also have their own limitations. You don’t need a huge investment for providing better infrastructure,” Justice Lodha said.

Notably, in an order likely to decriminalise politics, the SC had on March 10 directed for completion of trials in cases involving sitting MPs and MLAs within a year of framing of charges, the stage when the trial court prima facie finds evidences worthy of examination.

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