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Gyanvi Khanna

The report filed by amicus curiae in the Supreme Court in the PIL seeking speedy disposal of criminal cases against Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) suggested that candidates with criminal cases had more success rate in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria, the amicus in the matter, stated that, according to statistics, candidates with criminal backgrounds secured more seats than those without in the 17th Lok Sabha (2019-2024).

“In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, out of 7928 candidates, 1500 candidates (19%) had criminal cases, out of which 1070 candidates (13%) were serious criminal cases. However, out of 514 elected members of 17th Lok Sabha (2019-2024), 225 members (44%) had criminal cases against them. Thus, the candidates with criminal cases have won more seats than candidates without criminal cases.”

Essentially, the report intends to say that while only around 19% of the candidates had criminal cases, they occupied about 44% of the seats in the Lok Sabha; though 81% of the candidates were without criminal cases, in the final tally, only 56% MPs were without criminal background. This means that candidates with criminal backgrounds had a higher success rate than those without criminal antecedents. According to his report, nearly 15% of the candidates(225 out of 1500) with criminal cases won whereas about 4.5% of the candidates(289 out of 6489) without criminal backgrounds won.

The amicus relied upon a study done by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) for the statistics.

Cases pending over 3 years need special focus

As per the contents of an 88-page report, a large number of cases are pending against the lawmakers. In this regard, the senior advocate has stressed the need for the High Courts to call for reports from the presiding officers of the Special Courts MP/MLA of pending cases for three or more years. Such reports should contain the reason for the long pendency and the order sheet. Hansaria has clarified that only the copy of the order sheet will suffice, and the case file is not required. The High Court may thereafter, pass appropriate orders on micro examination of each case with a positive direction that a trial may be completed within one year., he added In his report.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had observed that it was difficult for the Supreme Court to lay down uniform guidelines applicable across the States and left it to the High Courts to evolve such measures to effectively monitor the trial of criminal cases against MPs/MLAs by invoking its powers under Article 227 under the Indian Constitution. After stating thus, the Court went on to issue general directions for the High Court for early disposal of pending cases.

Now, in this report, Hansaria, while collating the aforementioned data, has also underscored the urgency for the High Courts to expeditiously decide these pending cases. In this regard, he has sought the Top Court's directions.

In this context, it is necessary that this Hon'ble Court may pass further orders for expeditious disposal of pending trials and investigation under strict monitoring by the respective High Courts.”

The report elaborates that after the Supreme Court passed the above directions, over 2000 cases were resolved in 2023. Despite this, a significant number of cases remain pending.

“It may be noted that in view of the direction issued by this Hon'ble Court in the present proceedings, the steps taken by the respective High Courts, and expeditious hearing by the Special Court MP/MLA, more than 2000 cases have been decided in the year 2023. However, a large number of cases are pending, and many of them are for a long period.,” the report asserted.

Creation of Model Website And Right To Information Of Voters

In his report, Hansaria has proposed the creation of a model website akin to the National Judicial Data Grid so that citizens could know the progress of the trial of cases against their lawmakers. On this website, real-time information can be uploaded. The report also highlighted that the particulars are not easily accessible on the High Court's website, which hinders citizens from accessing details of pending cases.

The report also bolstered this suggestion by stating that in no other websites, the orders of the MP/MLA Courts are uploaded. Given that right to information is an integral part of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution, citizens have a right to be informed about the status of trial against their lawmakers.

Such information can be gathered only if there is a prominent tab on the website of the High Court furnishing all the information. This Hon'ble Court has repeatedly held that the voters are entitled to know about the criminal antecedents of the law makers which would include the progress of the trial and the reasons for delay.,” the report added.

Amicus cited various landmark precedents to support this, including the recent case of Anoop Baranwal v. Union of India [Election Commission Appointments] (2023) 6 SCC 161.

The report underscores the pressing need for active measures to address the issue of pending criminal cases against lawmakers. This report has gained significance given that phase two of the General Elections for the 18th Lok Sabha is ongoing.

Case Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. UOI W.P.(C) No. 699/2016

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