SC to look into the legality of special courts for MPs, MLAs

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday decided to examine questions about the legal jurisdiction of special courts set up to specifically prosecute members of parliament and state legislatures for various offences.

The Madras High Court, in a report through the three-judge Criminal Rules Committee on October 13 last year, raised the issue of “constitutional validity” of Special Courts for MPs/MLAs. The committee had even said that setting up of such special courts is not “legally permissible”. It had said that special courts “can only be crime centric and not criminal centric”. The High Court Committee had indicated how a Special Court could override the jurisdiction of an already existing Special Court under an Act to prosecute an MP/MLA, for example POCSO or the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The court will also examine whether these special courts deprive the accused of their right of appeal. Here, it has been argued that some of these cases are triable by a Magistrate. In general, if an accused fails before a magistrate, he can file an appeal against the judgment before the Court of Session. In such cases, the trial judge is the magistrate. The Court of Session is the first appellate court and the High Court is the second appellate court.

The petitioners have argued that a Special Court will have the powers of a Court of Session. If the case of an MLA or an MP, whose offense can be tried by a Magistrate, is placed directly before a Special Court, the accused shall forfeit his right to defend his case before the Magistrate and his The right of first appeal would also be taken away. A Sessions Court.

Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Suryakant have agreed to hear the matter on November 24.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the issue is a “major problem and will affect the right of appeal”. He said that an administrative order would compel the trial by a Magistrate to be tried by a Court of Session. Among the suggestions that came was whether there should be special magistrate courts with special sessions courts in each jurisdiction.

The amicus curiae, senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, assisted by advocate Sneha Kalita, said that the special courts are meant for speedy disposal of long pending cases. Similar to statutes that mandate Special Courts to try special offences, State Governments can also, in consultation with the High Courts, designate competent judicial officers to be Special Courts. In addition, the Supreme Court can flex its muscles under Article 142 of the Constitution to direct the constitution of Special Courts.

They agreed to address the court in detail at the next hearing.

In August, the top court had questioned the commitment of the states to speedy trial and prosecution of criminal politicians. It had ordered that a criminal case against an MP or MLA can be withdrawn only after the concurrence of the concerned State High Court.

“Various State Governments have resorted to withdrawal of several criminal cases pending against the MP/MLA by exercising the power vested under Section 321 of CrPC. Power under Section 321 CrPC is a responsibility which is to be exercised in the public interest, and cannot be used for external and political views. This power needs to be used in utmost good faith to serve the larger public interest,” the court had directed.

In September, the top court had asked chief justices of high courts to head special benches and immediately hear long pending criminal cases against sitting and former legislators.

More than 4,400 criminal trials have been going on, some for decades, since powerful MPs and MLAs have approached the high courts and imposed interim stays. Some are from about 40 years ago. Most are caught at the stage of framing of criminal charges. These cases range from corruption to money laundering.