The Supreme Court on Thursday requested all High Courts to expeditiously review cases where trials against sitting and former MPs and MLAs have been stayed, saying this is still an “elusive affair”, News18 reported.

A bench of Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kanta and Hrishikesh Roy directed chief justices of High Courts to review the matter within two months. The top court also asked chief justices to designate a special bench, comprising themselves and their designate, to monitor the progress of the trials.

“There has been no substantial improvement in the situation when it comes to disposal of pending criminal cases against sitting/former legislators MPs and MLAs,” the court said. “We further request the learned chief justices of all the High Courts to list forthwith all pending criminal cases...particularly those wherein a stay has been granted.”

Trials in 352 cases against sitting and former MPs and MLAs have not progressed due to stay orders issued by High Courts. Meanwhile, as many as 413 cases relate to offences punishable with life imprisonment, of which 174 cases involve sitting legislators. A total of 175 cases are pending under the Prevention of Corruption Act and 14 under Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The Supreme Court said the coronavirus pandemic should not be used as an excuse to not follow the directions, adding that matters can be heard via video conference. “In the event that a stay is considered necessary, the court should hear the matter on a day-to-day basis and dispose of the same expeditiously, preferably within a period of two months, without any unnecessary adjournment,” it said in its order.

The Centre also favoured the expeditious disposal of pending cases against former and sitting legislators, according to PTI. “The cases must reach their logical conclusion within a time bound manner,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said. “Whatever directions will come from the Supreme Court, the Union of India will welcome them.”

Advocate Vijay Hansaria, appointed as amicus curiae in the matter, informed the court that many cases are pending at the stage of framing of charges. Mehta said the Centre had released funds to the states for creation of special courts and several states have not yet filed the utilisation certificate with the Centre.

The court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, who sought a direction to the Centre to take appropriate steps to debar the person convicted for the offences specified under some provisions of the Representation of the People Act from contesting MLA or MP election.