The Supreme Court on Thursday directed High Courts to form special benches to monitor criminal cases against MPs and MLAs, reported Live Law.

The direction was part of a slew of guidelines by a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and Manoj Misra on a petition by lawyer and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.

The BJP leader was seeking the quick disposal of cases against legislators, which was opposed by the Centre, reported Bar and Bench. The government argued that a public servant and an elected representative are not different. The Election Commission, however, backed the petition.

Besides this application, Upadhyay has also sought a lifetime ban on convicted legislators.

Vijay Hansaria, the amicus curiae who assisted a Supreme Court bench in November last year, had said that 962 cases related to MPs and MLAs had been pending for over five years before 16 High Courts.

In the guidelines issued on Wednesday, the Supreme Court said cases that are punishable by death, life imprisonment or a jail term of five years or more should be prioritised. It also directed trial courts to not adjourn these cases except for “rare and compelling reasons”.

The top court said that the special benches can issue orders to expedite a trial and seek assistance from the advocate general and prosecutors. The chief justices can list cases where a stay order has been passed before the special benches to ensure that trials are commenced when necessary, as per the guidelines.

The High Courts have also been told that they can appoint a principal district and sessions judge for allocating subject cases to trial courts. “The principal district and sessions judge shall ensure sufficient infrastructure facilities for the designated court and also enable it to adopt such technology as expedient for effective functioning,” said the Supreme Court.

With this, the bench disposed of the petition seeking expeditious trial.