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Are expeditious trials of lawmakers facing criminal cases taking place, asks SC

New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought to know how “effectively” its direction that trials in all criminal offences involving sitting members of Parliament and State legislatures should be concluded within an year by holding it on a day to day basis has been implemented.

“There is already a mandamus. We want to know how effectively that mandamus has been implemented,” said the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Navin Sinha while hearing a PIL seeking lifetime ban on convicted law makers from contesting election.

The court was referring to the writ of mandamus issued by the top court on March 10, 2014, directing trials in criminal cases involving lawmakers by completed within an year by holding it on day to day basis.

It had said the offences for which the trial has to conclude within an year are those mentioned under Sections 8 (1), 8 (2) and 8 (3) of the Representation of People Act, and conviction for which attracts disqualification from the membership of the legislature.

The court had also said that in the cases where the trial could not be concluded in one year due to special, extraordinary circumstances, this fact would be communicated to the Chief Justice of the high court concerned with reasons, and the Chief Justice, in turn, would issue appropriate directions, extending the time.

On Tuesday, the court also wanted to know as to how many lawmakers in the parliament were facing criminal cases and the charges that have been levelled against them, and was told that 34 per cent of the sitting MPs, or a total of 184, faced criminal cases. Out of this, 117 faced serious criminal charges. The dats was from a report of NGO Association for Democratic Reforms.

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. It had also sought information on the rate of conviction in the cases involving people’s representatives.

“We will like to know what is the rate of conviction, it will throw a new light” in either case whether it is very high or it is very low, the bench said as it heard a PIL by advocate and BJP leader Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay seeking lifetime ban on convicted lawmakers and setting up of special courts for trying lawmakers accused of criminal offences.

Appearing for Upadhyay, senior counsel Krishnan Venugopal told the court that his client wants to amend the prayers to included that none of the convicted politicians should be permitted to be the office-bearers of their political party or its members.

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