The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the central government to match its commitment to decriminalise politics by setting up special courts to exclusively try pending criminal cases against politicians in a timebound manner.
Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha, who were hearing a batch of petitions seeking a lifetime ban on convicted persons from contesting Assembly or parliamentary elections, asked petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyaya and other interveners in the case to submit the details.
The bench also sought from Centre the details of criminal cases lodged against the politicians from 2014 to till date as well as on the disposal of these cases.
During the course of the hearing, the bench said that if the trial of lawmakers facing criminal cases was to be completed within one year, then legislatures would be free from them.
The SC also observed that the average number of cases each court in the country was dealing with now was over 4,000 in subordinate judiciary, adding that unless a judicial official deals exclusively with cases involving politicians, it would be hard to complete these trials within a year. You must say either "yes" or "no" on whether you are supporting the petitioner.
The Apex Court also asked Central government to appraise it as to how much amount would be spent on constituting special courts for cases against MPs and MLAs.
The court also chose to examine whether a lifetime ban would violate the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution, as such a disqualification has not been provided either in the Constitution or the Representation of People Act.
According to the Representation of the People Act, a politician convicted and sentenced to a jail term of two years or more shall be disqualified from contesting polls for six years from the date of his release from prison after the conclusion of the term.
Additional solicitor general Atmaram Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, said that the government was not averse to setting up special courts and added that it was a subject related to states.
It has also sought more details on the 1,581 cases registered against MLAs and MPs, and a report within six weeks on the idea of setting up special courts that can dispose of such cases within a year.
"On the one hand, you say you want to decriminalise, you make a commitment".