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Conduct virtual hearing for speedy disposal of cases against lawmakers: Report in SC

<p id="content">Some High Courts have sought directions for conducting trials through video conferencing for expeditious disposal of cases against sitting and former lawmakers but lack of infrastructure and non-availability of funds is a major hurdle, the Supreme Court was informed today.</p>
A report filed by senior advocate Vijay Hansaria in the apex court said the total number of cases against sitting and former lawmakers is 4,859, a jump of 400 cases since March when it was 4,442. "Some of the High Courts have sought directions for the conduct of trial through video conferencing, where the accused/witnesses are in another district/state, without the requirement of the physical presence of the accused/witnesses", said the report, which has been submitted in a petition by BJP leader and advocates Ashwini Upadhyay.

The petition had cited the inordinate delay in the disposal of criminal cases against lawmakers. The report also gave a detailed break up of cases pending against sitting and former lawmakers in all the states. 1374 cases are pending in Uttar Pradesh followed by Bihar where 557 cases are pending.

The report said all the High Courts have favored the establishment of a safe and secure "Witness Examination Room" with video conference facility but cited lack of infrastructure and non-availability of funds for this.

"Video conferencing rules have been framed by most of the High Courts and others are in process of finalizing the same …..The High Courts have recommended the appointment of Nodal Prosecution Officer and Special Public Prosecutor for each of the courts and have written to the state governments in this regard", the report added.

The report also mentioned that the number of cases pending against lawmakers has increased in the last two years, despite monitoring for expeditious disposal in the ongoing proceedings. "It is, therefore, submitted that strict monitoring, at a micro-level, by the High Courts is necessary to ensure expeditious disposal of the cases against legislators," said Hansaria in the report.

The report informed the Supreme Court that no status report has been filed by the Centre "with respect to initiation and current stage of cases against the legislators pending before CBI, Enforcement Directorate and other central agencies, grant of sanction and expected time for completion."

The report said some of the High Courts favored the constitution of Special Courts in each district, both at the Sessions and Magisterial level. "Many other High Courts have favored trial by the respective jurisdictional courts with a mandate to take these cases on a priority basis. In some of the States, the High Courts have recommended a constitution of zone-wise Special Courts", said the report.

Citing issues in Kerala, the report said: "Kerala High Court has stated that police personnel are reluctant to arrest and produce legislators. It may be directed that the Superintendent of Police of the concerned district will be personally responsible for the execution of warrants and service of summons to the legislators and any breach thereof will be treated as contempt of the orders of this Court.".