Friday, January 4, 2013

Can’t disqualify MPs, MLAs facing rape cases: SC

NEW DELHI, January 4, 2013 PTI

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to hear a plea for disqualification of MPs and MLAs charge sheeted for crime against women but agreed to go into issues of fast track trial of rape cases and implementation of laws for safety of women.

The apex court, which was hearing two PILs filed after the December 16 gang-rape incident, said it can only give notice to the government on limited issues as some of the prayers made in the petitions were beyond its jurisdiction.

"The issue of disqualification of MPs and MLAs is not in our jurisdiction," a bench comprising justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said.

"What is our power on MPs and MLAs. Obviously, such a sweeping relief can't be sought," the bench said referring to the prayer made for a direction for suspension of MPs and MLAs who have been charge-sheeted for crime against women.

The bench, during the hearing, suggested that the PIL petitioners should have taken a ground that if the investigation into the cases was not up to the mark, it should be treated as "misconduct" on the part of the Investigating Officer.

The bench also asked the government to apprise it about the terms and references of justice J.S. Verma committee which was set up to review and strengthen the existing law on rape and offences against women.

While the submission was made about the disqualification of politicians facing criminal cases, the bench observed that without going into the status of a person in life, they should be put on fast track trial.

The bench was told that out of 4835 MPs and MLAs in the country, 1448 are facing criminal cases.

However, the bench said at the moment it was not concerned with the issue and decided to hear the PIL on the limited issues.

The apex court also agreed that there was a need for fast track courts and additional judges.

"There is a lot of vacancies for the judges and lot of courts have to be set up," the bench remarked.

The court's observations came during hearing of the PILs filed by retired woman IAS officer Promilla Shanker and advocate and social activist Omika Dubey.

Ms. Shanker in her petition, apart from seeking suspension of MPs and MLAs charge-sheeted for crime against women, has also sought that cases of rape and crime against women and children be investigated by women police officials and trial be also conducted by lady judges.

In her plea, she has also said that no effort was being made for effective implementation of existing laws for safety of women.

Ms. Dubey in her plea, has sought directions for appointment of additional judges to adjudicate the matters of crime against women and for providing compulsory compensation to victims of rape.

She has also sought an order to restrain print and electronic media from publishing and telecasting obscene pictures of women.

Ms. Dubey has also raised issues of red light areas where girls are forced into prostitution.

The PILs were filed before the apex court days after the brutal gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedical student in Delhi on December 16. The victim died in a Singapore hospital on December 29.
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