NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday mooted the establishment of fast-track courts to prosecute MPs and MLAs whose assets have seen a sharp increase after being elected.
“It would be appropriate to put in place a definitive procedure to inquire and take action against such legislators, as noticed by the Income Tax department,” said a bench of justices J Chelameshwar and Abdul Nazeer. The bench also wondered if it was the right of elected politicians to continue indulging in their commercial ventures.
The observations were made while hearing a PIL filed by NGO Lok Prahari. The organisation sought an investigation mechanism that would begin work as soon as legislators file their tax returns and they are found to be different from what was disclosed in election affidavits.
The court wondered why the disproportionate wealth details of legislators should not be disclosed to the public. “There is no reason why the law should provide these public servants any immunity,” it told Attorney General K K Venugopal, who was assisting the court.
“The disclosure of assets and their sources could remain immune under various laws and also as a right to privacy,” Venugopal responded. But the bench said, “When the information relates to those who want to occupy public offices, the question is whether they should claim immunity.” Answering the query, Venugopal said the tax department was already probing the disproportionate assets of seven Lok Sabha MPs and 98 MLAs. An affidavit in this regard has been filed, he said.Justice Chelameswar then referred to the 1993 N N Vohra Committee Report, which indicated that the cases against MPs and MLAs just don’t progress. “Is it not time that we say something more and have a more effective mechanism?”
The court further added that mere disclosure of source of income would not suffice and an inquiry should be done to see how the person got into the position to earn that kind of income. The bench then mooted that mere investigation won’t work and a mechanism should be in place for fast-tracking of cases involving MPs and MLAs. The AG responded that the court could make a recommendation to speed up such cases. To this, the court regretted that while Parliament kept enacting new laws, the burden of all new litigation was on the existing courts.