States like UP, Tamil Nadu moved on special courts to hear cases against lawmakers facing criminal charges long after deadline lapsed

By: | Published: September 21, 2018 12:51 AM

As per data that the Centre has submitted to the Supreme Court, only 6% of the criminal cases filed against MLAs and MPs in which the verdict has been reached ended in convictions.

States like UP, Tamil Nadu moved on special courts to hear cases against lawmakers facing criminal charges long after deadline lapsed

As per data that the Centre has submitted to the Supreme Court, only 6% of the criminal cases filed against MLAs and MPs in which the verdict has been reached ended in convictions. Of a total 3,884 cases filed, accused lawmakers were found guilty in just 38, while in 560 cases, the accused legislator was acquitted. The low conviction rates could mean either that most cases are politically motivated—very likely, given a conviction means a six-year ban from contesting in polls—or that powerful lawmakers are easily able to escape conviction. Given how, in many cases against powerful politicians, prosecution witnesses turn hostile, evidence goes missing or is lost in mishaps, that seems likely too.

But, the larger worry here is that, despite the Surpreme Court ordering that criminal cases against lawmakers be fast-tracked, the verdict has been reached in just 15% of the cases. While 12 special courts were set up in 10 states, the remaining states and UTs were to fast-track the cases. However, six months after the expiry of the deadline in March, just 1,233 cases have been transferred to the special courts. The pendency of cases has to do with the lack of personnel and resources available with the judiciary. As of September 1, out of the 1,079 total number of judicial posts at the High Courts, 427 were vacant as were six posts of a total of 31 at the Supreme Court. The lower courts, that also included the fast-track courts, have it far worse. There are over 5,500 vacancies in district and subordinate courts. The low turnaround in the judging of criminal cases against lawmakers also has to do with how slow states have been to set up special courts. While Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of cases (565) against lawmakers, its special court started operations only on August 21. Given how Indian politics is in dire need of a clean up of criminals, such inertia is unacceptable. Apart from fast-tracking, there needs to be a protocol to ensure that trials are not waylaid by hostile witnesses and that evidence isn’t lost in murky conditions.

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