Nearly 4,500 criminal cases against sitting and former legislators are pending across the country, data collated from 24 High Courts has revealed. The Supreme Court has called the state of affairs "shocking".
"So many cases are pending at the initial stages because of the influence of law makers," three-judge bench of Justices NV Ramana, Surya Kant and Hrishkesh Roy said.
"Of the 4,442 cases against sitting and former legislators, 174 cases are offences punishable with a life term in jail," the bench added.
"In 352 cases, the trial has been stayed either by High Court or by the Supreme Court," the judges said.
Some pending cases in Bengal and Punjab date back to 1981 and 1983.
The court's remarks came in response to a petition filed by advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who sought a lifetime ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections. As of now, such politicians are banned for six years.
The top court also demanded information on white collar crimes from High Courts which have not yet provided it, including pending corruption cases, money laundering cases and cases under customs laws.
The information must be given to amicus curiae senior advocate Vijay Hansaria, who is assisting the court in the matter, within two days, the SC bench said.
Hansaria has suggested setting up special courts in every district to tackle cases against sitting and former legislators, appointment of special public prosecutors, witness protection programme.
The Supreme Court said it would consider the suggestions by the amicus curiae in its next hearing on September 16.