A Special Court to try criminal cases against elected members of the Parliament (MPs) and the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly (MLAs) was inaugurated last Thursday at Chennai.

The Court was inaugurated by Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh who presides over the Second Bench at the Madras High Court. The inaugural ceremony was held at the Collectorate Office, Singaravelur Malgai.

 A Government notification reportedly issued earlier this week had intimated that the state government would be setting up the Special Court, following consultation with the Madras High Court. The Special Court is to have jurisdiction over all criminal cases against legislators in Tamil Nadu. Its establishment follows directions issued by the Supreme Court last year for the constitution of such courts in various states.

On November 1, 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to set up a Central Scheme to set up Fast Track Courts with a view to exclusively dealing with criminal cases pending against legislators. The order was passed by a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha in a PIL filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking lifetime ban on convicted legislators.

The Centre, in turn, had submitted that it would set up twelve Special Courts for a period of one year. This number was based on the 11th Finance Commission report, which found that one such court can dispose of 165 cases per year.

During the course of the hearing, the Court had also sought for information regarding the number of cases pending against elected representatives between 2014 and 2017. In the absence of government data, the Centre had quoted a report by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). 

The ADR report had recorded a total number of 1581 cases pending against MPs and MLAs, based on declarations at the time of filing nomination papers. As per the ADR report, Tamil Nadu took the seventh spot in the list of states with the highest number of declared criminal cases pending against MPs/MLAs.

The Centre had earmarked Rs. 7.8 crore for setting up twelve Special Courts. This number was arrived after estimating Rs. 65 lakh to be the cost of setting up one such court, after taking into account the revised pay scales of judges in light of the 7th Central Pay Commission.

Earlier this month, the Centre had informed the Court that 12 special courts have been set up so far across eleven states, including Tamil Nadu.  The other states where similar courts have been set up are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

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