Kerala withdraws 36 criminal cases against MLAs, MPs without approval of HC

B Balagopal / Mathrubhumi News

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New Delhi: The Kerala government withdrew 36 criminal cases against MPs and MLAs without seeking the approval of the high court. Kerala High Court Registrar General Sophy Thomas informed the Supreme Court through an affidavit that the cases were withdrawn between September 16, 2020 and July 31, 2021. The Registrar General also informed the top court that the trial proceedings of 381 cases in which public representatives are involved, are progressing.

A total of 16 criminal cases were withdrawn from Thiruvananthapuram Judicial First Class Magistrate Court III and 10 cases from Judicial First Class Magistrate Court IV as per CrPC section 321 without the approval of the high court. Besides, five cases were withdrawn from Taliparamba Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, four cases from Kannur Judicial First Class Magistrate Court and one case from Mananthavadi Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, the registrar general informed the apex court.

The High Court Registrar General included details of such cases in the affidavit submitted in the supreme court. Currently, trial of 170 cases are pending in the Ernakulam Special Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court which was set up exclusively for the trial of the criminal cases in which MLAs and MPs are involved. Adv TGN Nair filed the affidavit of the High Court Registrar General in the supreme court.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday had observed that governments should take approval of the respective high court before withdrawing criminal cases filed against MPs/MLAs. The top court emphasized that there is nothing wrong in withdrawing cases of malicious prosecution, but the high court must examine such cases.

A bench headed by Supreme Court chief justice N.V. Ramana said: "We are not against the withdrawal of cases if there is a malicious prosecution. But this needs to be examined by the judicial officer in the high court. If the high court agrees then the cases can be withdrawn".

Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, appointed amicus curiae in a 2016 petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking direction to fast-tracking of criminal trials against sitting and former MPs/MLAs, has filed a report in the top court. He has been assisted by advocate Sneha Kalita in the matter.

The report said the state government has informed the amicus that 510 cases relating to Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 were registered in five districts of Meerut zone against 6,869 accused. Out of these, in 175 cases, the charge sheet was filed, in 165 cases final reports were submitted, and 170 cases were expunged.

"Thereafter 77 cases were withdrawn by the state government under Section 321 of CrPC. The Government Orders do not give any reasons for withdrawal of the case under Section 321 of CrPC. It merely states that the administration, after full consideration, has taken a decision to withdraw the particular case," said the report.

The amicus submitted that the 77 cases may be examined by the high court by exercising revisional jurisdiction under Section 401 of CrPC, in the light of the law laid down by the top court in the case of State of Kerala vs K. Ajith 2021.

On Wednesday, Hansaria contended that each case may have reasoned order. The bench also comprising justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant said it cannot examine all the cases, and let them go to the high court. Hansaria submitted that the High Court may be directed to issue administrative instructions to expedite the trial of pending cases on a day-to-day basis in terms of section 309 CrPC.

During the hearing, the chief justice drew a parallel between the problems faced by the judiciary and probe agencies like CBI or ED. He said just like us, probe agencies are suffering from lack of manpower, infrastructure. "We don't want to say anything about these agencies because we don't want to demoralise them, they are overburdened. Same with judges," noted the bench.

(With inputs from IANS)

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