UP Govt Withdrew 77 Muzaffarnagar Riots Cases 'Without Giving a Reason', SC Told

Several of these cases involved charges that are punishable with a life sentence, the amicus curiae has said.

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New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government has withdrawn 77 cases related to the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, including for offences entailing a life sentence, without giving any reasons, the Supreme Court was told on Tuesday.

A bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant is scheduled to hear a plea filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay seeking speedy disposal of cases against lawmakers.

Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, who has been appointed amicus curiae in the matter, in his report filed through advocate Sneha Kalita, said that the state government has said that a total of 510 cases relating to the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 were registered in five districts of the Meerut Zone against 6,869 accused.

Out of these 510 cases, in 175 cases the chargesheet was filed, in 165 cases final reports were submitted, 170 cases were expunged. Thereafter 77 cases were withdrawn by the state government under Section 321 of CrPC. The government orders do not give any reasons for withdrawal of the case under Section 321 of CrPC. It merely states that the administration after full consideration has taken a decision to withdraw the particular case, Hansaria submitted.

He said that many of such cases relating to offences of dacoity under Section 397 IPC are punishable with imprisonment for life.

Hansaria said that these 77 cases relating to Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 withdrawn under Section 321 of CrPC may be examined by the high court by exercising revisional jurisdiction under Section 401 of the CrPC.

In December last year, NDTV reports, the Uttar Pradesh had released a list of leaders against whom cases were being withdrawn. The list included three BJP MLAs – Sangeet Som, Suresh Rana and Kapil Dev – and right-wing leader Sadhvi Prachi.

Similarly, the amicus curiae pointed out that the Karnataka government has withdrawn 62 cases without assigning any reason, Tamil Nadu has withdrawn four cases, Telangana has withdrawn 14 cases and Kerala has withdrawn 36 cases.

Hansaria submitted that this court in the order dated August 10, 2021 had directed that no prosecution against a sitting or former MP/MLA shall be withdrawn without leave of the high court.

“It is submitted that withdrawal from prosecution under section 321 CrPC is permissible in public interest and cannot be done for political consideration. Such applications can be made in good faith, in the interest of public policy and justice and not to thwart or stifle the process of law,” he said.

The amicus in his report told the top court that in view of the repeated misuse of power by the state in withdrawing prosecution for political and extraneous considerations, the court may issue some directions in addition to the already laid down guidelines.

He said that all the cases which have been withdrawn under Section 321 CrPC after the order of this Court dated September 16, 2020 may be examined by the respective high courts by exercising revisional jurisdiction.

On August 10, the top court had in a significant order affecting politicians facing criminal cases, curtailed the power of state prosecutors and ordered that they cannot withdraw prosecution against the lawmakers under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) without prior sanction from high courts.

It had expressed strong displeasure over the non-filing of requisite status reports by the Centre and its agencies like CBI and indicated that it would set up a special bench in the top court to monitor criminal cases against politicians.

The amicus curiae has earlier pointed out that states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Karnataka have sought to withdraw criminal cases against politicians by using section 321 of CrPC which empowers prosecutors to withdraw cases.

The top court had directed that no prosecution against a sitting or former MP/MLA shall be withdrawn without the leave of the high court in the respective suo-motu writ petitions registered in pursuance of its order.

The high courts are requested to examine the withdrawals, whether pending or disposed of since September 16, 2020, in light of guidelines laid down by this court, it had said.

In another important direction, it had ordered that judges of special courts hearing cases against the MPs and MLAs will not be transferred until further orders.

The apex court had said that to ensure expeditious disposal of pending cases, it is necessary to direct the officers presiding over Special Courts or CBI Courts involving prosecution of MPs or MLAs to continue in their present posts until further orders.

(With PTI inputs)