In a significant move, the Supreme Court issued a series of directions to oversee the prompt resolution of pending criminal cases against Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs). The bench, comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra, acknowledged the complexity of establishing uniform guidelines applicable across states. Instead, the court left it to the High Courts to devise effective measures for monitoring such cases, invoking their powers under Article 227.

Simultaneously, the bench issued several general directions for the monitoring of the early disposal of pending cases:

1. **Suo Motu Registration by High Court Chief Justices:** Chief Justices of High Courts are directed to register a suomotu case titled In Re Designated Courts for MPs/MLAsto oversee the early resolution of pending criminal cases against MPs/MLAs. The case may be heard by a special bench led by the Chief Justice or a designated bench.

2. **Regular Monitoring by Special Bench:** The Special Bench handling the suo motu case can schedule regular hearings as deemed necessary. The High Court may issue orders and directions to facilitate the expeditious disposal of cases, and the Special Bench may seek assistance from the Advocate General or Prosecutor.

3. **Allocation Responsibility to Principal District & Sessions Judge:** The High Court may assign the Principal District & Sessions Judge the responsibility of allocating cases to designated courts. The Principal District & Sessions Judge may be required to submit periodic reports to the High Court.

4. **Priority to Specific Cases:** Designated courts must prioritize cases involving MPs/MLAs with potential life imprisonment, imprisonment for five years or more, and other cases. The trial court should avoid adjournments except for rare and compelling reasons.

5. **Review of Stay Orders:** The Chief Justice may review cases where a stay on the trial has been granted before the Special Bench to ensure that appropriate orders, including vacating the stay, are issued to commence the trial.

6. **Infrastructure Facilities:** The Principal District & Sessions Judge must ensure adequate infrastructure facilities for designated courts, incorporating technology for effective functioning.

7. **Creation of Website Tab:** High Courts should establish an independent website tab providing district-wise information on the year of filing, number of pending cases, and the stage of proceedings.

While monitoring the cases, the Special Bench may issue necessary orders or directions for their expeditious disposal.

The Court’s directions came in response to the first prayer in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Ashwini Upadhyay. The PIL challenges provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act, which limit the term of disqualification to the period of sentence plus six years after release. It also seeks to disqualify convicted MPs/MLAs and individuals dismissed from government service for corruption or disloyalty from contesting any elections for life.

The Supreme Court disposed of the first prayer in Upadhyay’sPIL, reserving consideration for other prayers. The Court has been actively involved in overseeing the creation of Special Courts to try cases against sitting and former MPs/MLAs. It continues to monitor the expeditious disposal of these criminal cases.

Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria and Advocate on Record SnehaKalita assisted the Court as amici curiae. Expressing hope that the directions would deter individuals with criminal backgrounds from entering politics, Hansaria thanked the Court for its proactive stance.

The PIL, titled “Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. UOI W.P.(C) No. 699/2016,” aims to address several issues, including the establishment of Special Courts, electoral reforms, and the disqualification of individuals convicted for specific offenses. The Supreme Court’s latest directions mark a crucial step towards ensuring the timely resolution of criminal cases involving elected representatives.

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