Need for speed

By NT Bureau Published on Nov 06, 2017 03:03 PM IST

Last week the Supreme Court asked the Government to set up special courts to try criminal cases against politicians.

Given that a large number of our politicos do tend to have a criminal past, the apex court’s order seems aimed at remedying the situation.

On an earlier occasion too it had voiced the idea. According to statistics, nearly a third of the present lot of MPs have on-going criminal cases pending against them.

Even if in most cases the charges might pertain to political agitations, such as defying prohibitory orders, the fact is at least 21 per cent of the MPs are facing serious criminal charges.

It is another matter that in spite of these charges if they still got elected, the blame must be shared by the voters as well.

The problem of nexus between crime and politics being pretty old. Unfortunately, all parties have come to rely on them to bolster their numbers in assemblies and parliament. There are Pappu Yadavs and Shahbuddins galore in politics, especially in Bihar and UP.

And despite attempts to prosecute them on serious criminal charges, including murder, their hold on the voters remains undiminished, an acknowledgment that where the local administration falters these bahubalis are often able to deliver instant justice.

Also, some of them play modern-day Robin Hoods, robbing the local haves to distribute partly to the have-nots. But the exasperation of the apex court is justified insofar as the increasing presence of politicians with criminal records further vitiates the administrative system and prevents the dispensation of justice. Criminal-politicians in various legislatures are able to influence the police and investigations and thus derail prosecutions and judicial trials.

But are special courts really the remedy for disposing of criminal cases against politicians? Experience belies that hope. The SC last week said that at present the judicial system is so slow that by the time a case against a politician comes to actual fruition he or she ‘would have served as a minister or a legislator several times over.’

Experience shows that fast track courts are often as slow as the regular ones, with at least half of them not functioning for want of infrastructure, including in several cases for want of presiding judges. Besides, a special or a fast track court for politicians would not merely entail a dedicated judge, it would also call for a whole supporting infrastructure, including court clerks, police, prosectors, etc.

Without allocating special funds for these fast track courts and for the supporting edifice of clerks, lawyers, investigators, etc., the only other course would be to divert the personnel from the regular courts and thus delay further the disposal of cases pending in various courts.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the proposed fast tracks for politicians would fail to serve the intended objective. A holistic approach to cleanse the judicial system is needed, not such quick-fixes which the apex court in its zeal to rid the polity of shady characters seems to suggest at regular intervals.