‘Spl focus on cases involving influential people’

The Commission suggested a need for earmarked police personnel for court duties as regular police takes such duties lightly.

New Delhi: Cases involving "influential" persons deserve "special focus" to avoid long delays in investigation and trial, but at the same time any blanket direction to set up special courts whenever such personalities are involved should be avoided, the Law Commission has said.

The panel also said that though there could be special focus on the criminal cases involving "influential public men", the steps to be taken should be part of the "larger plan" to check delays and deficiencies in investigation into serious crimes and to ensure progress of trials without hindrances and hurdles placed by the accused.

"The Commission is of the view that the cases of influential persons in public life need to come up for special focus for the reason that the experience shows occurrence of long delays both in investigation and trial...," the Commission has said in its latest report dealing with `expeditious investigation and trial of criminal cases against influential public personalities`.

The panel, which advises government on complex legal issues, said persons holding public offices have a role to play in democratic governance and the people have legitimate expectation that the elected representatives are clean and free from criminal misconduct. "Thus, public are equally interested in early conclusion of trial. The cloud cast on them should not linger on for years and decades," it said.

On the question of setting up of special courts to try such personalities, the report pointed that creation of more special courts to deal with corruption cases is an area which is engaging the attention of the Centre and the high courts.

"Crimes allegedly committed by influential persons holding high offices in extraordinary situations such as Emergency was held to be a justifiable ground to set up Special Courts. But, any blanket direction to set up Special Courts wherever influential public personalities are involved ought to be avoided, especially viewed from Article 14 angle," (which deals with equality before law) the report said.

On the issue of defining the term `influential person in
public life`, the Commission felt that such definition is "not feasible and it does not serve any purpose".

But at the same time, it said an illustrative list was perhaps more appropriate. It said MPs, MLAs or MLCs including former and present ministers, mayors, chairpersons of municipalities/zila parishads, elected or nominated chairpersons (non-officials) of other state-level public bodies and important office bearers of political parties at state level can be treated as influential persons in public life.
Suggesting a variety of measures, the panel said a copy of FIR concerning the involvement of influential personalities in cognisable crimes should be forwarded to district police chief, besides the magistrate.

It said the investigation should be taken up promptly and completed as far as possible within three months and at any rate not later than six months.

The report, submitted to the Supreme Court in a writ petition (Virender Kumar Ohri Vs Union of India and others), also suggested that any representation by the aggrieved persons or victims regarding undue delay in the disposal of criminal cases should receive "due attention" of the District Judge as well as the High Court committee.

The Commission suggested a need for earmarked police personnel for court duties as regular police takes such duties lightly.

The panel also supported the need to empower the Directorate of Prosecution with independent powers for effectively supervising the working of public prosecutors.