No Criminal Cases against Members of Legislatures Can Be Withdrawn Without Prior Sanction of the Concerned High Courts: Supreme Court

Read Time: 05 minutes

Hearing plea regarding pendency of criminal cases against MPs & MLAs and expeditious disposal of the same, the Supreme Court today held that the same cannot be withdrawn without the prior permission of the concerned High Courts.

A Full Bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Vineet Saran said that the High Courts were requested to examine the withdrawal of the cases against the MP, MLAs in September 2020, in the light of the Apex Court judgment in State of Kerala vs K Ajith.

The top court has asked the Registrar General of all High Courts to submit a detailed list of the Judges who are hearing these abovesaid cases mentioning which ones are pending and which ones have been disposed of, however, the CBI courts, Special Court which are hearing such cases are to continue, till further orders of the Court.

This direction will be subject to the retirement or death of the judges holding the trial of cases against legislators, Court added.

The Bench has granted liberty to the Registrar Generals of High Courts, if the need arises, to move applications seeking relaxation of this condition against the transfer of judges.

The Backdrop of the Case

In the Supreme Court in 2016, a petition was filed by BJP MLA Mr. Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay urging for issuance of directions to the Centre to take necessary steps to debar persons charged with criminal offences from contesting elections, forming a political party, and becoming office-bearers of any party.

Directions to provide adequate infrastructure to set up Special Courts to decide criminal cases related to People Representatives, Public Servants and Members of Judiciary within one year and debar the convicted persons uniformly from Legislature, Executive and Judiciary, were also sought.

The plea also sought directions to implement the "Important Electoral Reforms" proposed by the Election Commission, Law Commission, and National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution.

A report had been submitted by the Amicus Curiae in the case, Senior Advocate Vijay Hansaria, which states that the number of criminal cases pending against sitting and former MPs and MLAs in December 2018 was 4,122. This has increased to 4,859 in September 2020, registering a jump of 17% in less than two years.

It had been also stated by the Amicus Curiae that the State governments are attempting to withdraw cases against their party MPs and MLAs, even those booked for serious offences.

Case Title: Ashwini Upadhyay v. Union of India