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September 30, 2018 05:35 AM


Purging politics via judiciary
Subordinate judiciary in both Punjab and Haryana has shown the way by fast-tracking cases
Saurabh Malik

Supreme Court’s recent decision against debarring tainted politicians with criminal charges from contesting polls has brought the focus on the need for balancing the scales of justice in cases involving political heavyweights. It has also brought to the fore the need for effective follow-up action on the findings of the Vohra Committee report.

The apex court, in its verdict in “Public Interest Foundation and others versus the Union of India and another”, made extensive references to the report submitted by the committee set up by the Central government in 1993. The committee was constituted under the chairmanship of the then Union Home Secretary, NN Vohra, to take stock of all available information about the activities of crime syndicates/mafia organisations, which had developed links with, and were being permitted by government functionaries and political personalities.

The report had recommended setting up of a “nodal cell” with powers to take stringent action against crime syndicates, while ensuring immunity from being exploited or influenced. The subsequent suggestion to set up special courts also flowed from the Vohra Committee recommendations.

The Centre has already agreed to set up special courts to deal with cases against the country’s elected representatives. However, the Vohra Committee report’s concern about the progressing trend of criminalisation in politics still needs to be addressed. Data tabulated earlier this year tells that 19 MPs and MLAs were involved in 29 criminal cases in Punjab alone. The situation was a shade better in Haryana with 13 MPs and MLAs involved in as many number of criminal cases. Information to this effect was furnished by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in pursuance of SC directions.

The information provided by the HC also brings out the oft-talked about actuality of the justice dispensation mechanism, the delay in dealing with criminal cases, including the ones involving politicians.
Details make it clear that just one case was decided in a year in Haryana, while the number of cases decided after the expiry of one year was five. In Punjab, not even a single case was decided within a year.

The numbers hold significance because the apex court had, in 2014, directed that cases against people’s representatives be disposed of within a year. At that time, 1,581 lawmakers were facing prosecution in 13,500 cases. The number has refused to dwindle. According to information provided by the Centre to the SC earlier this year, 3,816 criminal cases were registered against 1,765 MPs and MLAs. The information did not include cases registered in Maharashtra and Goa.

The component of delay has remained an integral constituent of the justice delivery system, despite the initiation of steps to set up special courts and other measures to deal with the judicial predicament.

The number of pending cases against the lawmakers is miniscule compared to the number of undecided matters. Figures released by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in July reveal that 3,48,452 cases are pending. Of these, as many as 1,16,406 are criminal matters awaiting decision. Of these, the cases involving politicians can certainly not be dubbed as mammoth, but there is a reasonable ground for segregating pending criminal cases of politicians from the entire gamut of issues being decided by the courts.

Harsh punishment for a heinous act slapped on men of eminence sends out a strong message. It may end up acting as a deterrent too. However, delay often changes public perception. It may also end up giving an impression that an accused can get away with things.

One of the arguments against prioritising cases against those in the state legislatures and Parliament is that gain in one case in terms of progress in proceedings means loss of time that could have been devoted to another, much older matter involving a commoner. The argument is not without force. Estimates suggest that the all-India backlog is touching 3.3 crore cases.

But then the answer, perhaps, lies in a technique adopted by some judicial officers in the subordinate judiciary in both Punjab and Haryana. Instead of allowing a trial to linger on for years together and watch witnesses change their stand during the proceedings, they have been putting the cases on fast track. Instances of cases being decided in less than a month by giving short adjournments and ensuring the presence of witnesses are not uncommon.

Fast tracking cases restores people’s faith in the justice-conveying mechanism and rules out, to a large extent, the possibility of witnesses losing interest in the matter, their intimidation or their being won over by the side which is influential. Adoption of the same practice in cases involving MPs and MLAs can possibly arrest to a large extent the criminalisation of politics till the Parliament comes out with a law to ensure that persons facing serious criminal cases do find their way into Parliament and the state assemblies.

Setting the Benchmark

The Vohra Committee report, submitted on October 5, 1993, has been subsequently referred to in almost all judicial pronouncements on the issue of criminal-bureaucratic-political nexus. Extensive references have been made to the report in cases such as “Dr Subramanian Swamy versus Director, CBI and another”; “Manoj Narula versus Union of India; “Dinesh Trivedi, M.P., and others versus Union of India and others” and Supreme Court’s latest verdict on the issue in “Public Interest Foundation and others versus the Union of India and another”.

In matter of Dinesh Trivedi, the SC observed that the committee was set up “to take urgent stock of all available information about the activities and links of all mafia organizations/elements to enable further action”. Based on the findings, the Centre was to determine whether there was a need “to establish a special organ/agency to regularly collect information and pursue cases against such mafia elements.” To this end, the committee was declared to be competent to “invite senior officers of various concerned departments to gather the required information”.

It was noted that the spread of crime syndicates in India has been pervasive and criminal elements have an extensive network of contacts with bureaucrats, government functionaries, politicians, media persons, strategically located persons in the non-governmental sector and members of the judiciary; some of these syndicates have international links, sometimes with foreign intelligence agencies.

The report was tabled in Parliament on August 1, 1995, and became the subject of a prolonged, intense debate. Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani urged that details of the reports and events mentioned by the Vohra Committee be fully disclosed. He made several suggestions, including that special courts could be designated to expeditiously try such cases. The Bench asserted the matter was required to be addressed by a body functioning with the highest degree of independence. Such a body was required to possess necessary powers to be able to direct investigation of all charges thoroughly before it decides, if at all, to launch prosecutions.

“The report, the supporting material upon which it is based, and the unequivocal assistance of all existing intelligence agencies must be forwarded to this body. In time if the need is so felt, the body may even consider the feasibility of designating special courts to try those who are identified by it, which proposal may then be considered by the Union Government,” the Bench noted.

“To this end, and in the absence of any existing suitable institution or till its creation, we recommend that a high-level committee be appointed by the President of India on the advice or the Prime Minister, and after consultation with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The committee shall monitor investigations involving the kind of nexus referred to in the Committee report and carry out the objectives described earlier”. — SM

Some cases that made news


Kamal Gupta | BJP | Hisar

Charges: Rioting, danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation, obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions, causing hurt, assault on public servant, house trespass under sections 147, 149, 283, 186, 332, 353, 451, 511, 109 and 324 of the IPC.

Abhay Singh Chautala | INLD | Ellanabad

Charges: Disproportionate assets case registered by the CBI in 2006 under Prevention of Corruption Act. A Delhi court framed charges on August 18, 2011. The case is pending in the court.

Kuldeep Bishnoi Congress | Adampur, Hisar

Charges: Chandigarh Police registered a case against him and 25 of his party workers on March 5, 2010 in the Sector 11 police station under sections 147, 148, 149, 332, 353,427 of the IPC and Section 3 of the Prevention of the Government Property Damage Act.

Subhash Barala BJP state president & Tohana MLA

Charges: Case registered by Hisar city police under sections 341, 283, 174 and 149 of the IPC on July 15, 2009. He was protesting against alleged police inaction in arrest of the accused in a murder case. He was acquitted by the court on February 13, 2015.

Ravinder Kumar Machhrauli | Independent | Samalkha

Charges: Served imprisonment of 15 month. He had been held guilty of assault to deter public servant from discharging his duty (Section 353 of the IPC), hurting public servant (332) and criminal intimidation (506).

Capt Amarinder Singh (Chief Minister)
Charges:Three cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act by Vigilance Bureau. Accused of taking benefits for Ludhiana City Centre Project and Amritsar Improvement Trust Land Development Project. He was acquitted in the Amritsar case. A cancellation report filed by Vigilance Bureau in the Ludhiana case. One case by the Income Tax Department pertaining to alleged properties and concealed income in foreign countries. There is a stay on court proceedings.

Navjot Singh Sidhu | Cabinet Minister

Charge: The Supreme Court acquitted him of culpable homicide in the murder of a Patiala resident case while finding him guilty of the lesser offence of voluntarily causing hurt under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code. The victim’s family has appealed against the quantum of punishment.

Sanjeev Talwar: MLA | Congress | Ludhiana East

Charge: Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property.

Trial underway.

Gurpreet Kangar | Congress | Rampura Phul

Charges: Attempt to murder and violation of the Railway Act. Challan presented in both cases. The Justice Mehtab Singh Commission had recommended cancellation of FIR in the attempt to murder case.

Sukhpal Singh Bhullar | Congress | Khemkaran

Charges: Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property. Presentation of challan stayed pending adjudication.

Joginder Pal | Congress | Pathankot

Charges: Damage to public property.

Charges framed.

Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria | Congress | Rajasansi

Charges: Convicted in 1978 for kidnapping and compelling a woman for marriage. The High Court acquitted him in July 1980.

Santokh Singh | Congress | Baba Bakala

Charges: Case regustered under prevention of Corruption Act. Under trial.

Sukhbir Singh Badal | SAD | Jalalabad

Charges: FIR registered for attacking a Congress worker in Muktsar. He has denied allegations.

N K Sharma | SAD | Dera Bassi

Charges: Causing hurt to a public servant, rioting. The court has taken cognisance but no charge-sheet framed

Aman Arora | AAP | Sunam

Charges: House trespass, causing hurt to public servant. His appeal against summoning and for quashing the FIR pending before the High Court.

Sukhpal Singh Khaira | AAP | Bholath

Charges: Accused of helping drug smugglers. The SC stayed proceedings against him.

Baljinder Kaur | AAP | Talwandi Sabo

Charges: She has been booked for rioting, obstructing a public servant.

Simarjit Singh Bains | LIP | Atam Nagar, Ludhiana

Charges: Six FIRs, including attempt to murder. Under trial. Charges framed by a court in two cases.

Balwinder Singh Bains | LIP | Ludhiana South

Charges: Two FIRs, including theft, criminal intimidation. Charges framed in one case.


Bikram Singh | BJP | Jaswan-Pragpur (Minister)

Charges: Wrongful restraint, unlawful assembly under sections 341 and 143 of the IPC.

Anil Sharma | BJP | Mandi (Minister)

Charges: Case under Section 16 of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954.

Mahinder Singh | BJP | Dharampur

Charges: Unlawful assembly, endangering life or personal safety of others under sections 143, 336, IPC.

Dr Rajiv Bindal, Vidhan Sabha Speaker | Nahan

Charges: Framed by special judge/session judge, Solan, in a corruption case under sections 420, 467, 468, 471, 120B of IPC , Section 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act registered by State Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau in 2006.

Hans Raj | Deputy Speaker | BJP | Churah

Charges: Mischief by injury to works of irrigation or by wrongfully diverting water, obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions, unlawful assembly, criminal trespass under sections 415, 147, 149, 109, 186, 427, 430, 441, 143 of the IPC.

Narinder Bragta (chief whip) | BJP | Jubbal, Kotkhai

Charges: Unlawful assembly, wrongful restraint under sections 341, 143, 149 of the IPC.

Former CM Virbhadra Singh | Congress | Arki

Charges: Forgery, using a forged document or electronic record as genuine under sections 465, 471 of the IPC and section 13(2) read with 13(1)(e) of Prevention of Corruption Act 1988.

Govind Singh Thakur | BJP | Manali (Minister)

Charges: Unlawful assembly, rioting and wrongful restraint under sections 143, 341, 149 of the IPC.

Asha Kumari | Congress | Dalhousie

Charges: Forgery for purpose of cheating, dishonestly inducing delivery of property, Forgery of valuable security, under sections 468, 420, 467 and 120 B of IPC. Convicted by special judge, Chamba, appeal pending in the High Court and the sentence has been suspended.

Compiled by Sushil Manav, Jupinderjit Singh and Bhanu P Lohumi

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