Following a Supreme Court direction to fast-track trials of law-makers facing criminal charges, the Union government will be setting up 12 special courts. These will decide on the cases within a year of commencing trial. Two courts will hear matters involving parliamentarians while the rest 10 will be set up in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Bengal—where the number of MLAs booked is more than 65, as per The Times of India. Now, 1,581 lawmakers, including 228 MPs, will be tried for approximately 13,500 cases pending against them. With cases pending for years, many lawmakers facing criminal charges have continued to get elected and serve in legislatures unhindered. Had there been convictions, they would have been barred under the Representation of the People’s Act from seeking election to any legislature for six years.
Former Bihar chief minister and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad was sentenced in the infamous fodder scam in 2013, a good 17 years after the case had come to the courts. Similarly, the verdict in the disproportionate assets case against former Tamil Nadu CM, the late J Jayalalithaa, came only earlier this year, a good 21 years after it had been filed and a few months after Jayalalithaa’s death—naturally, with her passing, all charges against her became void. As per an ADR analysis, 185 lawmakers elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014 were facing criminal charges—112 faced serious criminal charges, most of whom are from the ruling party—up from 158 in 2009. Given criminality in politics goes against the very essence of law-making, a clean-up is needed. To be sure, many may be facing trumped up charges. But with a court decision, this is resolved once and for all. Though pendency of all sorts of cases could be better solved by setting up adequate court infrastructure and hiring more judges—vacant judicial posts are a major hiccup for timely justice—special courts for trying lawmakers have indeed become a necessity.