Cut adjournments in Criminal Trials against Lawmakers, says Supreme Court

The Apex Court has asked for major changes in how cases against sitting & Ex-Lawmakers are heard, putting a bar on unnecessary adjournments & indefinite stays in pending criminal trials, & considering to offer protection even without a formal request to all witnesses.

These new rules, which will apply to cases against both sitting & former members of Parliament & legislative assemblies, are part of a Top Court order on Nov 4 in a Public Interest Litigation filed by BJP leader & Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.

The full order was made public on Monday. Upadhyay’s plea, being heard by the Supreme Court since 2016, demanded the quick resolution of criminal trials pending against lawmakers. Senior Lawyer Vijay Hansaria & advocate Sneha Kalita, who are assisting the Supreme Court as amicus curiae in the case, pressed for many reforms in a report submitted on Nov 2.

There are 4,859 criminal cases pending against lawmakers across the country. Of these, 2,556 cases involve sitting legislators.In the order, a 3-Judge bench, headed by Justice NV Ramana & also comprising justices Surya Kant & Aniruddha Bose, said: “Keeping in mind the public interest involved in these matters, & in order to prevent undue delay, we direct that no unnecessary adjournments be granted in these matters (involving MPs/MLAs).”

Senior Lawyer Gopal Shankarnaraynan, appearing for Upadhyay, argued that stay orders can’t be indefinite.

The Court was also particular about enhancing the scope of the witness protection scheme for people deposing in cases against lawmakers. “Keeping in mind the vulnerability of the witnesses in such cases, the trial court may consider granting protection under the said scheme to witnesses without their making any specific application in this regard,” the top court said in the order. Advocate Sneha Kalita, who is assisting the amicus curiae in the present case said, “Using political might, money & muscle power, trial in such cases get prolonged. The decision of the court is a step in the right direction.”

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