Speedy Trials of Politicians and the Democratic Imperative Set by Supreme Court’s Directive
In a decisive move to strengthen the pillars of Indian democracy, the Supreme Court on November 9, 2023, laid down significant guidelines for the High Courts to ensure swift and Speedy trials of Politicians in criminal cases. These guidelines are expected to rejuvenate the judiciary’s commitment to timely justice and reinforce public trust in elected representatives.
Supreme Court’s Observations on Political Democracy and Judicial Process
The Supreme Court, under the stewardship of Chief Justice Dr. Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, made poignant observations on the state of political democracy and the judicial process. The court underscored the direct impact of prolonged criminal cases against MPs and MLAs on the essence of democracy. It emphasized the need for expeditious trials to maintain the electorate’s confidence in their political representatives, asserting that an efficient and effective parliamentary democracy hinges on such trust.
Compelling Need for Speedy Disposal
The Apex Court noted a “compelling need” to address the substantial backlog of cases against politicians, recognizing the adverse effects on the political fabric of the country. The judiciary’s concern is palpable, considering over 40% of such cases have been pending for more than five years. The court’s directive for priority handling and conclusion of these cases is not just a procedural reform but a democratic imperative.
Systemic and Institutional Challenges
Acknowledging the systemic and institutional obstacles in the judicial process, the Supreme Court called for sweeping reforms at every procedural stage. It highlighted the complex interplay of historical, cultural, regional, and linguistic factors affecting the functioning of courts, and called on the legal fraternity to participate actively in the reform process.
High Courts’ Action Plan: Detailed Guidelines for Speedy Trials of Politicians
In light of the varying judicial landscapes across states and districts, the Supreme Court found it impractical to establish a uniform set of guidelines applicable nationwide. Instead, it empowered the High Courts to devise measures for monitoring these cases, invoking their powers under Article 227 for superintendence over district courts.
The Role of High Courts and District Judiciary
The court’s instructions to High Courts include
- Registration of a suo motu case titled “In Re: designated courts for MPs/MLAs.”
- Formation of Special Benches to monitor progress and issue necessary directives.
- Allocation of cases by the Principal District and Sessions Judges to appropriate courts.
- Prioritization of serious offenses and minimal adjournments.
- Regular listing of cases under stay and revisiting the need for such stays.
- Ensuring adequate infrastructure and technology for the designated courts.
Creating a public information tab on High Court websites detailing the status of pending cases.
Conclusion: Upholding Democracy with Speedy Trials of Politicians
The Supreme Court’s guidelines serve as a testament to the judiciary’s resolve to purge the political system of criminality and ensure that those in power are held to account without undue delay. By enabling High Courts to tailor specific solutions to their regional challenges, the judiciary has taken a flexible yet firm step towards preserving the sanctity of democratic institutions and upholding the rule of law.
The guidelines were issued in the context of Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. UOI W.P.(C) No. 699/2016, with the citation 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 971.