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Supreme Court Orders Speedy Trials for Lawmakers
Mar 12, 2014

Supreme Court of India on 10 March ordered lower courts to conclude the trials of lawmakers charged with grave crimes within a year of the date of the charges being filed as a way to reduce the number of politicians who are re-elected during drawn-out trials.

Criminal cases in India often drag on for several years, allowing lawmakers who are charged with crimes to continue to hold their posts and run for re-election. This ruling is part of a push for electoral overhaul in India.

In a landmark step last year in July, the Supreme Court barred people convicted of crimes carrying prison terms of more than five years from running in elections. On March 10, it ruled that lawmakers who are charged with crimes carrying a punishment of more than two years must have a speedy trial.

In a move that aims to address the problem of criminals in electoral politics, the Supreme Court ordered, “A lawmaker, if held guilty of crimes specified under the Representation of the People Act, will be disqualified immediately whereas an acquittal would ensure that all doubts about his continuance are put to rest.

The order will ensure that politicians charged with serious crimes are not re-elected because their trials dragged. At present, a candidate can contest elections while being tried. The government estimates that there are around 2,000 cases involving MPs and MLAs pending in courts across the country.

The court also ordered that trials in such cases must be conducted daily. If the trials fail to conclude within one year due to extraordinary circumstances the trial judge would submit a report with the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court, apprising the court of the special reasons for the delay.

Passing the order, the court also took into account a recommendation made by the Law Commission, which has opined that MPs and MLAs, charged by the trial court with crimes entailing more than five years’ jail term, should be disqualified.


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