New Delhi, November 3: The Madras High Court’s three-judge Criminal Rules Committee has raised objection to a Supreme Court order to create special courts to expedite cases involving MPs and MLAs.
In its response to the amicus curiae appointed by Supreme Court, the Madras HC committee has said that special courts can “only be offence centric and cannot be offender centric” — arguing that MP/MLAs cannot be seen as a special class of persons and given a separate court, India Today reported.
They have also pointed out that special courts have already been created to handle cases under special laws such as POCSO, SC/ST Act, Prevention of Corruption Act, NDPS, PMLA etc. Further, it has been argued that under the law, special courts can only be created by statute and not by judicial or executive order.
This response comes even as other state high courts have filed reports on number of special courts set up to deal with these cases.
The issue of statutory special courts has also been flagged by several other states. Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Punjab and Haryana, Telangana, Meghalaya and Kerala are among the states where the “special offences” such as sexual offences against children under POCSO Act, SC/ST Act have not been transferred to the “MP/MLAs courts” and remain before the statutory special courts.
The Supreme Court had in 2017 asked all states to set up special courts to expedite cases against legislators after noting that a huge number of sitting MP/MLAs had multiple criminal cases against them
Amicus curiae in Supreme Court, senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, in his report has countered the objections raised by the Madras High Court. Hansaria has said that directions passed by Supreme Court for designation of special courts are valid since legislators “form a class in themselves,” and “there is a reasonable nexus of decriminalisation of Indian polity in fast tracking disposal of these cases”. He has also argued that the Supreme Court had used it’s plenary powers under Article 142 to issue directions for setting up special courts.
The Supreme Court had also directed states to appoint senior police officers as ‘nodal officers’, who would be responsible for ensuring that the accused MP/MLA is served with summons from the court and is produced before the court on every hearing.
This was done as states have pointed out that accused persons and witnesses would be “forced to travel” long distances to reach the designated special courts if a single designated court is created for the entire state.
However, according to the amicus report, “Most of the High Courts have stated that Nodal Prosecution Officers have not been appointed making them responsible for prosecution of the cases.”