‘No reason…’: SC concerned over delay in prosecuting cases against MPs/MLAs
New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed concern over the inordinate delay by central agencies, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), in completing investigations, while hearing a plea to fast-track criminal cases against sitting and former MPs /MLAs.A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to have a discussion with the Directors of the CBI and the ED to find out if they require additional manpower to complete investigation in a time-bound manner.”We are sorry to say that the report is inconclusive… there is no reason for not filing charge sheet for 10-15 years, and also for not filing anything,” the Chief Justice, while citing the report filed by amicus curiae on status of pending cases against MPs/MLAs by the CBI and the ED.The bench, also comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant pointed out that in ED cases, properties worth crores are attached, but no chargesheet is filed. “Simply attaching the property does not serve the purpose,” it noted.Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, amicus curaie in the matter, cited a 2013 case registered under the NDPS Act in which charges were framed in 2017 and is pending before Special Judge, NDPS FTC, Manipur. “The expected time for completion of the trial has been stated to be 2030,” said the amicus.The bench expressed shock at the projection of the completion of trial.”Do so something, don’t keep the sword hanging on somebody’s head,” the CJI told Mehta, adding that the trial should be completed, and if somebody is guilty, he should be punished.
Hansaria submitted before the court that data of pending criminal cases against MPs and MLAs is shocking and disturbing and emphasised on expediting the trial proceedings.CJI Ramana also drew a parallel between the problems faced by the judiciary and probe agencies like the CBI or the ED. “Just like us, probe agencies are suffering from lack of manpower, infrastructure and everybody wants the CBI to investigate their matter.”We don’t want to say anything about these agencies because we don’t want to demoralise them, they are overburdened. Same with judges.”According to the amicus report, 51 MPs and 71 MLAs/MLCs are accused in cases arising out of offences under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, while a total of 121 CBI cases against MPs/MLAs are pending before court.Citing the report, the CJI said: “Cases range from 8 to 10 years… 58 out of them are punishable with death or life imprisonment. The oldest case is from 2000. 37 cases of CBI are still under investigation.”Mehta submitted that in many ED cases, response from foreign countries is often required. He added that Letters Rogatories are sent to various foreign countries seeking information. “Some send response early. Some late”, he added, citing the cause for delay in investigation.He suggested that the court may set an outer limit for trial to end.To this, the Chief Justice responded: “It is easy for us to say expedite trial and all… but where are the judges?”After hearing detailed arguments in the matter, he said the court will pass order.Hansaria, appointed amicus curiae in a 2016 petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking direction to fast-tracking of criminal trials against sitting and former MPs/MLAs, has filed a report in the top court. He has been assisted by advocate Sneha Kalita in the matter.