Introduction –

The Supreme Court of India, on December 14, 2017, in the case of Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India, directed the State governments and respective High Courts to ensure that twelve Special Courts are set up and mooted by the Centre to deal with cases related to the legislators/politicians of the country. These Courts as per the direction shall be functional from March 1, 2018.

Need for setting up Special Courts –

In recent years, there have been many politicians in our country who have been facing prosecution due to their corrupt/criminal conducts. As of 2014, approximately 1,581 legislators[1], viz. Members of Parliament (MPs) and members of legislative assemblies (MLAs), were facing prosecution in 13,500 cases. Though the exact number cannot be determined at present, it is for this very reason that the need for setting up Special Courts is critical. 

Earlier Direction by the Court –

Previous to this direction, the Supreme Court on November 1, 2017, had earlier directed the Centre to establish a Central Scheme to set up Fast Track Courts. The purpose of this scheme was to exclusively deal with criminal cases pending against legislators/politicians. The Centre was then directed by the Supreme Court to submit the amount of funds required to set up these Courts.

Action taken by the Centre –

Following this direction, the Centre through its affidavit had stated that it would set up twelve Special Courts for a period of one year. The Centre relied on the report of the 11th Finance Commission for setting the number of the proposed courts. The report stated that one such court could dispose 165 cases per year.

With regards to the funds required, the Centre stated that it has earmarked INR 7,80,00,000 (USD 1217580 approx.) for setting up these twelve Special Courts. This amount was calculated based on the cost of setting up one such court which is estimated to be INR 65,00,000 (USD 101465 approx.). This estimation also accounted for the revised pay scales of judges in light of the 7th Central Pay Commission.

Hearing dated December 14, 2017 –

Acknowledging the submissions made by the Centre in its affidavit, the Court proceeded to give the following direction regarding the distribution of funds earmarked for the purpose –

“The Union of India in its additional affidavit has further stated that a sum of Rs.7.80 crores has been earmarked as the required expenditure for the setting up of 12 Courts and the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance has granted in-principle approval to the said allocation. Having considered the matter we direct the Union of India to proportionately allocate the aforesaid expenditure i.e. 7.80 crores to the different States in which the Special Courts are planned to be located. This should be done forthwith.”

Direction issued by the Supreme Court –

“Immediately after such allocation is made and intimated to the respective State Governments, the State Governments in consultation with the High Courts will set up the Fast Track Courts (12 in all) to ensure that the said Courts start functioning from March 1, 2018. All necessary/required notification(s) shall be issued by the concerned/respective State Government(s).

The High Court(s), acting through various trial Courts, will trace out from the case records the particular case(s) pending in the files of the respective judicial officers under the jurisdiction of the High Court(s) which are required to be dealt with by the Special Courts under the Scheme and thereafter transfer the said cases to such Special Courts(s) for adjudication.”

The case has now been listed for hearing on March 7, 2018.