Free Press Journal

The Supreme Court’s direction to the Centre to constitute special courts to exclusively try criminal cases involving politicians may be a step in the right direction but its purpose can be served only if there is an honest intent to get things moving. There can be no two opinions that the country’s political system sorely needs a spruce-up. But experience has shown that a mechanism like fast track courts is not necessarily a passport to speedy justice. Going by statistics furnished by the Association for Democratic Reforms, more than a third of the members of the current Lok Sabha have criminal cases against them. There is no deterrent against political parties putting up candidates with criminal record and consequently, there is a great temptation to give money and muscle power a premium in choice of candidates. As many as 6.5 lakh cases are pending in fast track courts in the country. Will the record be any better in coming days with half the fast track courts being currently non-functional?

The apex court’s intent in seeking speedier justice in cases involving members of Parliament and MLAs is unexceptionable but with the Election Commission being a toothless tiger are there grounds to believe that the problem can be resolved merely by having a central scheme to set up special courts to deal with criminal cases against politicians? The earlier experience with fast track courts ended in a fiasco with the scheme being given up. Frequent adjournments which have been a bane of the legal system were rampant even with special courts.

Prosecution cases were often built on weak ground with a tinge of deliberateness. The court’s direction to the government to let it know the status of the 1,581 criminal cases against lawmakers at the time of filing nominations to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was understandably motivated by the slow disposal of cases against them. The whole problem of huge backlog of criminal cases in general needs to be addressed on a war footing. Not the least of the problems is the shortage of judges which is perennial.

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