12 courts to try politicians not enough, but it's a start: SC

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave the go-ahead to constitute 12 fast-track special courts to try offences against MPs and MLAs. These courts are to be made functional by March 2018 to exclusively try cases against as many as 1,581 politicians.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha said that while 12 courts might not be sufficient to decide all cases pending against MPs and MLAs within a year, a beginning had to be made for speedy trial, and it would consider setting up more courts after getting data on number of cases pending against lawmakers.

"Setting up 12 courts is not the end of the process but the beginning. Let the courts first start functioning and we will see what further direction is needed," the bench said after petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay alleged that there were more than 13,500 criminal cases pending against politicians and 12 courts would not be able to decide all cases in one year.

Holding that the Centre's scheme on constituting special courts was "rudimentary at this stage", the bench, however, allowed the plan to be implemented. It directed the Centre to disburse Rs7.8 crore earmarked for the scheme among states where the courts are to be set up. It directed the states to take all necessary steps in consultation with high courts to ensure that the special courts start functioning from 1 March.

Two special courts will handle cases against 228 MPs and the rest will be set up in 10 states - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Kerala, MP, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, UP and West Bengal - where the number of tainted MLAs are more than 65 each. The Centre said in other states, such cases could be tried before the special court of a neighbouring state.

The bench also directed the Centre to collect data on pending cases against MPs and MLAs within two months to decide whether the number of special courts needed to be increased. It posted the case for further hearing on March 7.

Additional solicitor general A N S Nadkarni told the court the scheme was planned as a tentative measure and it would be modified to increase the number of courts (See: Centre to set up 12 special courts to expedite cases against politicians).