New Delhi: The special court to try criminal cases against politicians in Delhi has disposed of around 130 “minor” criminal cases such as defamation, abuse etc. since last year. On the condition of anonymity, an official told The Sunday Guardian that around 65 such cases out of an estimated 300 cases it received since March last year are still pending in this court.

Following a direction of the Supreme Court last year, the Union government had set up 12 special courts for politicians in various states across the country. While two of these courts are in Delhi-NCR, the other 10 such special courts are in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

In Delhi-NCR, this new special court is located in the newly constructed Rouse Avenue court complex. With modern looks, the newly constructed eight-storey court building is centrally air-conditioned where litigants can sit and wait for their turn. One would be startled on visiting this special court as it has striking sofas and sophisticated furniture, unlike typical old and dirty courtrooms. “This court only deals with “normal crimes”. For heinous or serious crimes such as murder, there is another court with a special CBI judge in the same Rouse Avenue court complex,” said the above-mentioned official.

The Sunday Guardian was, however, unable to get any data regarding cases disposed or pending in the court which deals with “serious crimes’ such as murder. But a survey of Association for Democratic Reform shows that 213 (17%) out of 1,266 candidates had declared criminal cases against themselves in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Out of 1,266 candidates 146 (12%) have serious criminal cases against them; 12 candidates have declared convicted cases against them. Among them, 10 candidates have cases related to murder.

Criticising the special court for disposing of only “minor cases”, Prof Jagdeep Chokkar, former dean of IIM Ahmedabad, told this newspaper, “It only proves that they are not serving any purpose—this means special courts are not dealing with what they should. The purpose of reducing criminalisation of politics will be served only if people who have criminal cases are convicted for more than two years or debarred from contesting elections.” Prof  Chokkar is also associated with the Association for Democratic Reforms.

Along with special court pertaining to cases pending against MPs and MLAs, there are courts for 26 special CBI judges in the new Rouse Avenue building. Highlighting the fact that this modern court complex is only for politicians and high-profile criminals, Vishnu Sharma, secretary of Delhi Bar Council, said: “If you do a petty offence, you have to go to Tis Hazari court which doesn’t have luxurious facilities. Such an air-conditioned court should be for domestic violence cases and cases of senior citizens.’’

However, Ashwini Upadhyay, who filed the petition seeking a life time ban on politicians convicted in criminal cases, besides setting up of a special court to expeditiously try cases involving elected representatives, said: “The purpose for which we filed the petition has not been achieved yet. It would be better if in every district court, one or two judges get nominated as a special judge. Now there is such a court in Delhi. So what happens is that cases from Dwarka, Tughlakabad and other places come to one court. The main problem is with witnesses. Anyway, it is hard to get a witness against an MP or an MLA. Even if someone agrees, he/she have to travel far for the same cause. The person may withdraw in fear of losing his life on his way. In case of women, it will even more difficult to convince them to be witnesses.’’ He also said that the matter is not closed yet.

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