SC seeks govt reply on barring legislators facing rape charge

In what may compel the Centre and the states to come clean on the issue, the Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to them and sought their stand on debarring MPs and MLAs tainted with rape and other charges relating to crimes against women.

While during the hearing, a Bench led by Justice K S Radhakrishnan had categorically remarked that the issue of disqualification of MPs and MLAs was not within its jurisdiction and that such a sweeping relief could not be sought in a PIL, the court order later disclosed that the notices were issued on several prayers, including the one relating to tainted legislators' removal.

The PIL by former IAS officer Promilla Shankar has asked for a directive from the apex court to the Centre and all states "to disqualify the Members of Parliament and Members of State Legislatures who are charged with rape and crimes against women and children."

While the petitioner's counsel pressed for the disqualification of politicians facing criminal cases, the Bench observed that it was of the view that without going into the status of a person, they should be put on fast-track trial in all such criminal cases. The petition has claimed that out of 4,835 MPs and MLAs in the country, 1,448 are facing criminal cases.

The Bench has also sought the governments' response on plea of termination of services of police and government officials who are convicted of charges of rape and other heinous crimes against women and children.

The court also asked the government to apprise it of the terms and references of Justice J S Verma Committee, which was set up to review and strengthen the existing law on rape and other offences against women.

Also issuing a notice on setting up of fast-track courts for sexual offence cases, the Bench accepted that there was a need of such courts in the country and also more number of judges to man them.

... contd.

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