New Delhi : Expressing concern over the tardy progress in criminal cases against politicians, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asked Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to draw up a roadmap on how these could be fast tracked. Home Minister Rajnath Singh will be assisting Prasad in drawing up the blueprint in the coming days. Once the blueprint is ready, the government will try to hammer an all-party consensus on the issue.
Fast tracking court cases against politicians, especially legislators, was stressed by Modi in his election speeches and media interviews in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. Modi had also stressed that his administration would steer clear of political vendetta. He took the same stand when asked about a potential investigation against Robert Vadra.
Many top politicians belonging to different parties are accused in criminal cases. Jagan Mohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh is being tried for corruption, as is Jayalalithaa, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. For that matter, Modi’s top aide, Amit Shah, who was recently made BJP president, is facing murder charges for allegedly sanctioning the extra-judicial killing of Muslims in Gujarat by top police officers. Shah has denied the charges.
This Parliament has a record number of lawmakers facing criminal charges — 186 members or 34 per cent of the Lok Sabha — according to research by the Association for Democratic Reforms.
The Law Ministry has already started working on the roadmap and one of the suggestions under consideration stems from the recommendation of the Law Commission to the Supreme Court in March.
The law panel had said that for charges framed against sitting MPs or MLAs, the trial must be expedited and concluded within a one-year period. “If trial is not concluded within one year then (either) the MP/MLA may be disqualified at the expiry of the one-year period or the MP/MLAs’ right to vote in the House as a member and his remuneration be suspended,” the report had said.
Another option, as echoed by Modi in one of his interviews, is to request the apex court to take up cases on a fast-track basis. But the civil society has been insisting that the government should also focus on clearing cases related to rape and crime against children and not restrict itself to politicians.
The government also wants that the act of seeking bail, adjournments etc should not be used a delaying tactic.