Pending court cases against lawmakers

It is worth knowing to believe that in our country as many as over 4000 criminal cases were pending against lawmakers, both sitting and former, comprising Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs). It is more surprising that some of these cases are ”pending” with courts since 1980s. While a criminal case filed against any individual reflects the levels of one’s integrity , it also speaks volumes about the justice delivery system , perhaps due to such a prolonged protraction of trials , the adage that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ gets credence while it suggests to bring in a mechanism where time bound trials of all pending cases against the most respected but powerful lawmakers not only should be mooted but translated in practice. The Apex Court of India on Sept 10 on the prolonged pendency of these cases said that it was ”surprised” , ”shocked” and ”sorry” to know that over 4000 cases were pending against the lawmakers .
It may be reiterated that there have been voices very resolutely raised that a lifetime ban should be imposed on such politicians who are convicted in criminal cases from contesting elections and to that effect, a PIL too has been filed in the Supreme Court. A Bench of three judges is already hearing the case wherein the court observed that things are created at the initial stages because of the influence of the legislators in such a way that even FIRs are not filed and ”the legislators hang the sword over investigations”. However, the Central Government has favoured expeditious disposal of pending cases against the lawmakers both sitting and former and presented its clarification on the subject before the court . This stand of the Government, if fructifying in the very near future , would result in reaching of the cases at ”logical conclusions”. Here, it is pertinent to mention that since almost all major political parties and even Regional and State based ones, have some such cases pertaining to their members, never shall there be an occasion for moving an adjournment motion in Parliament in order to raise any points or issues pertaining to knowing at least the status of the pending criminal cases against the lawmakers let alone discussing and debating the issue threadbare. If that was not mocking of democratic process, what else it was as such issues are conveniently put under the carpet .
It is pertinent to note that in March this year, the Supreme Court had directed all the High Courts to provide data in respect of criminal cases which were pending against current and former MPs and MLAs. Even after setting up of special courts , as many as 4442 cases were found pending . The report which was submitted to the court by the two lawyers assisting the court as amicus curiae finds that in 2556 cases, sitting legislators are accused persons. Trials in over 350 cases have been stayed by the High Courts or even by the Supreme Court. The report makes interesting but alarming reading that number of legislators involved are more than the total number of cases since there are more than one accused in a case and the same legislator is an accused in more than one case.
Important points that have bearing on the cases pending were dealt with on Sept16 which inter-alia, are that if proceedings against any of the cases are stayed by the High Courts then the Apex Court may direct them to decide the matter in a time bound manner. Were there certain shortcomings or deficiencies with the infrastructure of the special courts, the Supreme Court could direct the State Government concerned to address the problem within a month. However, certain pertinent questions do arise in the matter. Is there some mechanism in force to ensure at initial stages the FIRs filed or cases filed direct in courts were followed by time bound investigations? Was it ensured that evidences and witnesses were cogent and solid to help in smooth trials? In case of stays granted by High Courts, what mechanism was in vogue to get such stays lifted and vacated by the state and Central Governments as the case may be? However, was any ‘Action Plan’ devised to, at the outset, know the status of cases and what proper monitoring procedure was there to see the cases tried speedily. Last but not the least but most important, is whether segregation of cases depending upon the severity of the crime was being done to sort out those of heinous and serious nature involving long and even life imprisonment etc, cases pertaining to scams, frauds, corruption and money laundering to be heard on priority .
By any standards, such a scenario that who make laws for us and sit in highest forums of democracy should be found accused in criminal cases and by allegedly using every type of influence, pressure and delaying tactics , managing to cause such cases remaining undecided, pending and lingering on , is in the long run going to have such effects on the functioning of the democratic set up that would even weaken it from within . We nurture this belief that the maxim ”innocent till proved guilty” should now be replaced with “guilty till proved innocent” in case of lawmakers. That makes the stand of the Central Government more relevant that time bound trial of pending cases against lawmakers was necessary.