Special courts for the political class?

Special courts for the political class?

The Supreme Court's directive to the government to take steps to set up special courts to try politicians facing criminal charges is well-intended and will be widely welcomed. The court has made such suggestions in the past. It had also issued an order in 2014 that trials of cases involving elected representatives should be completed in one year. But governments have not acted on them for obvious reasons. That is why the court has now directed the government to come back to it with a scheme in six weeks. Apparently, the court shares the serious concern in society over the increasing criminalisation of politics and the failure of the justice system to deal with it. One-third of the elected representatives in the country are facing criminal cases. In the normal course, cases take years to be decided. In the case of politicians, it takes decades. Most of them do not get convicted at all.  

While there is a case for quicker trials and disposal of cases against politicians, there may be difficulties in implementing the court's order. There is a provision for setting up special courts to handle particular classes of offences such as sexual crimes and drug trafficking, there are doubts whether they can be constituted to try a particular class of offenders. It may be considered discriminatory and can be challenged. Even if a law is passed for this it may be held as violative of the right to equality. The definition of a political person may not be easy either. Nor are special silver bullets as there are over 6.5 lakh cases pending in them all over the country. About half of the fast-track courts are not fully functional because of lack of judges or for other reasons. So, there are legal and practical issues involved in implementation. The government may have to consider them when it presents its plan to the court and the court will have to find solutions for them.  

A cleaning up of politics is essential for the heath and credibility of the democratic system. The crimes and corruption of politicians, who are the law-makers and are responsible for the enforcement of laws, weaken the system more than the misconduct and misdemeanours of any other class of public personalities. Unfortunately, all attempts to make them accountable for their actions have failed in the past. Governments, parties and politicians have always claimed that they are for stringent action against corruption and crime. But action has not kept up with claims and elected representatives have often behaved as if they are above the law. So, the court's initiative may be received with scepticism by many.    

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