Supreme Court Sets 1-yr Deadline to Wrap up Trial Against MPs, MLAs
In order to expedite proceedings against sitting MPs and MLAs in criminal cases, the Supreme Court on Monday set a deadline for lower courts to complete trial in cases involving lawmakers within a year of framing of charges. A Bench headed by Justice R M Lodha said trial courts will have to explain to the Chief Justice of the respective High Court if the trial is not completed within a year.
The ruling came after the Law Commission submitted its report on electoral reforms. The Bench said the period can be extended by the Chief Justice of the High Court if he/she is satisfied with the reason given by the trial judge for not completing the trial within this period.
It said all such proceedings involving lawmakers must be conducted on a day-to-day basis in order to expedite the trial. As the trial is kept pending for years, lawmakers continue to enjoy membership of the legislative body despite being charged in heinous offences, the court observed.
It passed the order on a PIL filed by NGO Public Interest Foundation seeking its direction for expeditious trial in cases involving lawmakers, following which the court took the Law Commission’s views into account.
The NGO contended that MPs and MLAs continue to be Members of Parliament and Assembly for a long time due to delay in proceedings. The court said that in cases of any offence related to Sec 8(1), Sec 8(2), Sec 8(3) of the Representation of the People’s Act, the trial will have to be completed in one year.
These include offences for which maximum punishment is two years or more or offences such as insulting the National Flag, spreading enmity between different communities or hoarding of essential commodities.
In July 2013, the apex court had struck down the provision that protects a lawmaker from disqualification even after conviction in a criminal case. The court had ruled that MPs or MLAs shall stand disqualified from holding membership of the House from the date of conviction in a trial court. The court had held Sec 8(4) of the Representation of the People’s Act as ultra vires. The section allows a convicted lawmaker to remain in office till the pendency of appeal.