The higher judiciary has been unrelenting in its campaign to cleanse politics of criminals. On Tuesday, it took note of the special courts being set up by Kerala and Bihar, two states with a large number of tainted politicians; UP and Maharashtra are the other. The available data reinforces the need for a time-bound and exclusive judicial mechanism to expedite trials involving politicians. Well versed in the art of delaying hearings, obtaining repeated adjournments and filing interlocutory petitions, it is estimated that politicians have been successful in stalling the framing of charges in at least half of the cases. By the time cases are decided, the tainted politician has become a legislator several times.
The idea of special courts for politicians suggests singling out a class of people. Special courts have so far dealt with a type of crime such as corruption, terrorism and drug trafficking. Considering that corruption charges against public servants are also handled by special courts because it is in public interest to expedite cases against those in public life, the same benchmark applies to politicians. The political class also invited a more active court intervention because it was unresponsive to the Supreme Court’s 2014 direction to complete trials of elected representatives within a year.
That order came in the wake of another Supreme Court decision that immediately disqualified tainted politicians instead of giving them the rope to file an appeal. Unlike the special courts set up earlier and then disbanded, the apex court has visualised an after-life for these estimated 1,000 courts by proposing they can continue functioning as normal courts. The measure should make a slight dent in the workload of trial courts which stands at an average of 4,200 cases per court. The battle to prevent criminals from entering public and political institutions will be hard and long. A renewed level of trust in politics requires the political executive to rise up to the occasion by making available the required funds and infrastructure for the special courts. For clean politicians it is in their interest to clear their names quickly.