Accused in criminal cases won more seats in 17th Lok Sabha, amicus curiae report in SC

New Delhi : An amicus curiae report in the Supreme Court said candidates with criminal cases won more seats in the 17th Lok Sabha than those who led lawful lives.

The report, which has come even as polling in the General Elections for the 18th Lok Sabha has moved to the second phase, highlighted the dire need for the electorate to know who they are voting to power.

It said the right to information of voters was part of their fundamental right to free speech and expression.

“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,” Supreme Court’s amicus curiae senior advocate Vijay Hansaria said in his report.

Dedicated tab on HC websites sought

The report pushed for a dedicated tab on the homepages of State High Courts’ websites giving specific and detailed information, district wise, of criminal trials against legislators. The tab should prominently display the progress of each individual trial and the reasons for their delay. This would enable the common man and the voter to access information about the criminal antecedents of the candidates.

The amicus curiae, assisted by advocate Sneha Kalita, referred to a report published by Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) for the Lok Sabha elections 2024 Phase I and Phase II. His report said that out of 2,810 candidates (Phase I – 1,618 candidates and Phase II – 1192) 501 (18%) candidates had criminal cases against them, out of which 327 (12%) were serious criminal cases (punishable with imprisonment of five years and more).

“The same was the position in 2019 Lok Sabha elections in which out of 7,928 candidates, 1,500 candidates (19%) had criminal cases, out of which 1,070 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,” the report pointed out.

Mr. Hansaria, as amicus curiae, keeps a hawk’s eye for the Supreme Court on criminal cases against law makers. This is his 20th report, dated April 20, 2024.

‘Large number of cases pending’

The report said data collected by him from the Registrar Generals of State High Courts show that 4,472 criminal cases were pending against lawmakers as on January 1, 2024. Fresh cases against legislators in 2023 number 1,746. However, 2,018 criminal cases against them were decided last year.

“Though a number of cases are decided, yet a large number of cases are pending trial for a long period. In the 19th report the amicus curiae pointed out that out of 5,175 cases pending as on November 2022, 2116 (40%) cases were pending for more than five years,” he noted.

Mr. Hansaria said details of cases in Special Courts designated to try MPs and MLAs were not accessible on any websites.

“The Supreme Court may consider directing that a model website be created on the pattern of National Judicial Data Grid to upload real-time information. For this purpose, this court may constitute a committee under the chairmanship of a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court,” the amicus curiae recommended.