New Delhi: The Manipur government has set up two “exclusive, special courts” at Imphal to enable criminal action against sitting and former MPs and MLAs.
This comes after the Manipur high court directed the state to set up special courts at sessions and magisterial levels with an aim to enable timely action against pending criminal cases of MPs and MLAs.
According to an Indian Express report, the law and legislative affairs department, complying with HC’s direction, said the first court – special court (MPs/MLAs), No. 1 Manipur – will function at the session court level, and will be presided by additional district and session judge (FTC), Manipur West. The second court – special court (MPs/MLAs), No. 2 Manipur – will function at the magistrate level with chief judicial magistrate, Imphal West, as the presiding officer.
The exclusive special courts will have jurisdiction over the whole of Manipur, the report said.
The state has also appointed additional public prosecutor (district), Manipur, assistant public prosecutor (FTC), Manipur West and the court of chief judicial magistrate, Imphal East as special public prosecutor to conduct prosecution in the cases. The prosecutor will not be eligible for extra remuneration and these duties will be treated as additional assignment, it said.
The Supreme Court has asked the chief justices of high courts to head special benches and hear long-pending criminal cases against sitting and former MPs and MLAs.
According to a Hindu report, there are over 2,500 criminal cases, ranging from corruption to money laundering, against sitting MPs and MLAs alone. More than 4,400 criminal trials have been held up, some for nearly 40 years. Most of these cases get stuck during the stage of framing criminal charges.
According to an analysis by election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 43 of the 70 Delhi MLAs, or 61%, have declared criminal cases against them. The report showed the number of MLAs who declared criminal cases has increased from 14 in 2015 to 37 in 2020. These cases include crimes against women, murder, assault and corruption.
Of the 43 Delhi MLAs, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has the highest number of cases against him – 13, said the report.
In Uttar Pradesh assembly, the BJP, which had won 312 seats in 2017, has 37% criminal MLAs. At least 114 MLAs had declared that they faced criminal cases and 83 were booked under cases of heinous crime, showed another ADR analysis.
Special courts for MPs and MLAs have been in the news also thanks to a controversial development in former Union minister M.J. Akbar’s defamation case against Priya Ramani, who had accused him of sexual harassment.
Additional chief metropolitan magistrate, Rouse Avenue Court, Delhi, Vishal Pahuja recently announced that his court was not competent to hear the case it had been hearing since May 4, 2019. The judge cited the Supreme Court’s order in Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay v Union of India yet the circumstances are a matter of analysis, as V. Venkatesan noted in his article for The Wire.