- The Supreme Court’s order directing the Centre to frame a scheme to establish special courts exclusively to try cases against politicians marks another milestone in the higher judiciary’s continuing campaign to cleanse politics of the taint of crime. The court has handed down many rulings that make legislators and holders of public office accountable for corruption.
- In recent years, it has grappled with the disturbing phenomenon of criminals entering the electoral fray. In a landmark verdict in 2013, the court removed the statutory protection for convicted legislators from immediate disqualification; and in 2014, it directed completion of trials involving elected representatives within a year. The court is now keen on establishing a time-bound and exclusive judicial mechanism to expedite trials involving “political persons”. The order requires the Centre to provide details of the funding necessary to set up special courts, and indicates that State governments be involved in the exercise. True, cases involving offences by serving or past legislators move rather gingerly in the present criminal justice system. It is apparent that those with political influence have taken full advantage of its inherently languid nature by delaying hearings, obtaining repeated adjournments and filing innumerable interlocutory petitions to stall any meaningful progress. A few prominent leaders have been successfully tried and sentenced, but these are exceptions rather than the rule. For influential politicians, a criminal prosecution is no more than a flea bite; and, sometimes, even a badge of victimhood that redounds to their electoral benefit.
- However, establishing special courts may not be the ideal way to expedite cases. From the viewpoint of the accused, the idea could smack of victimisation and engender a feeling of being chosen for discriminatory treatment. There is already a provision for special courts to try various classes of offences. For instance, corruption, terrorism, sexual offences against children and drug trafficking are dealt with by special courts. However, creating a court for a class of people such as politicians is discriminatory. While corruption charges against public servants are being handled by special courts, it is a moot question whether there can be special treatment for offences under the Indian Penal Code solely because the accused is a politician. A possible legal and moral justification is, of course, available. It is in the public interest to expedite cases in which those in public life face serious charges. It would be primarily in their own interest to clear their names quickly, lest their candidature be tainted. Also, the earlier order for completion of trial within one year appears to have had no significant impact. Special courts may indeed address these issues, but the ideal remedy will always be a speedy trial in regular courts. If only the routine criminal process is pursued with a universal sense of urgency, and if enough courts, judges, prosecutors and investigators are available, the expediency of special courts may not be needed at all.
Cleanse: make thoroughly clean.
Example: This preparation will cleanse and tighten the skin
Synonyms: clean up, wash, bathe, rinse, disinfect
Taint: a trace of a bad or undesirable quality or substance.
Example: The taint of corruption that adhered to the regime
Synonyms: trace, touch, suggestion, hint, tinge, stain, blot
Phenomenon: a fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, especially one whose cause or explanation is in question.
Example: Glaciers are unique and interesting natural phenomena
Synonyms: occurrence, event, happening, fact, situation, circumstance
Accountable: required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible.
Example: Government must be accountable to its citizens
Synonyms: responsible, liable, answerable, to blame
Fray: unravel or become worn at the edge, typically through constant rubbing.
Example: Cheap fabric soon frays
Synonyms: unravel, wear, wear thin, wear out/through, become worn
Mechanism: a system of parts working together in a machine; a piece of machinery.
Example: The gunner injured his arm in the turret mechanism
Synonyms: machine, piece of machinery, appliance, apparatus, device
Expedite: make an action or process happen sooner or be accomplished more quickly.
Example: He promised to expedite economic reforms
Synonyms: speed up, accelerate, hurry, hasten, step up, quicken, precipitate
Gingerly: in a careful or cautious manner.
Example: Jackson sat down very gingerly
Synonyms: cautiously, carefully, with care, warily, charily
Inherently: in a permanent, essential, or characteristic way.
Example: The work is inherently dangerous
Languid: displaying or having a disinclination for physical exertion or effort; slow and relaxed.
Example: They turned with languid movements from back to front so as to tan evenly
Synonyms: relaxed, unhurried, languorous, slow, listless, lethargic
Innumerable: too many to be counted often used hyperbolically.
Example: Innumerable flags of all colors
Synonyms: countless, untold, legion, without number, numberless
Interlocutory: given provisionally during the course of a legal action.
Example: This is entirely consistent with the familiar field of interlocutory injunctions granted ex parte.
Victimhood: the state of being a victim.
Example: The society nurtures a sense of victimhood
Engender: cause or give rise to a feeling, situation, or condition.
Example: The issue engendered continuing controversy
Synonyms: cause, be the cause of, give rise to, bring about, occasion
Indeed: used to emphasize a statement or response confirming something already suggested.
Example: It was not expected to last long, and indeed it took less than three weeks
Synonyms: as expected, to be sure, in fact, in point of fact, as a matter of fact
Pursue: follow someone or something in order to catch or attack them.
Example: The officer pursued the van
Synonyms: follow, run after, chase, hunt, stalk, track, trail, shadow
Expediency: the quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper or immoral; convenience.
Example: An act of political expediency