The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up investigating agencies for delay in inquiry in cases involving MPs and MLAs, Live Law reported. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana was hearing a plea seeking speedy trial in cases related to legislators by setting up special courts.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the court expressed its concern on a status report submitted by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on the number of such pending cases.
The report mentioned that 51 MPs and 71 MLAs and MLCs were currently facing money laundering charges, typically investigated by the Enforcement Directorate. Meanwhile, 121 cases against sitting MPs and MLAs were pending with the Central Bureau of Investigation, the report stated, according to Live Law.
“We are sorry to say that the report is inconclusive and there is no reason for not filing chargesheet for 10 [years]-15 years,” Ramana said, noting that the oldest pending case dated back to 2010. “We don’t want to demoralise the agencies...They are overburdened like judges...But the report speaks volumes.”
The chief justice also observed that in many of the money laundering cases, the Enforcement Directorate has only attached properties of the accused.
“Attaching properties without filing chargesheet will not serve any purpose,” Ramana said.
Mehta suggested setting an “outer limit [deadline]” to finish proceedings in cases against MPs and MLAs. To this, the chief justice said that there was a paucity of judges to hear cases.
“It is easy for us to say expedite trial and all...But where are the judges?” Ramana asked. “Manpower is a real issue. Just like us, investigating agencies are also suffering with this issue. Everyone wants a CBI investigation you see.”
The court also asked Mehta to consider a suggestion by amicus curiae in the matter Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria regarding a monitoring committee to evaluate the reasons for delay in the cases.
Hansaria had suggested that the committee would consist of a former judge of the Supreme Court or a chief justice of a High Court, chiefs of the CBI and Enforcement Directorate, the Union home secretary and a judicial officer not below the rank of a district judge.
In a previous hearing on the matter on August 10, the Supreme Court had ordered that criminal cases against MPs and MLAs cannot be withdrawn without the permission of the High Courts of the concerned states.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected a proposal by Hansaria to allow state governments to withdraw criminal cases against sitting and former MPs/MLAs on grounds of malicious prosecution, Live Law reported.
The court said that while it was in favour of withdrawing cases on grounds of malicious prosecution, it should be done by High Courts and not based on instructions of state governments.