Amid growing demand that influential people involved in criminal cases should be investigated and tried quickly, the Law Commission has said it is not feasible to define who is an influential person as not only those holding public office but even their close associates wield influence to impact probes and trials.
The panel’s reluctance to define “influential person in public life” was expressed in its Supreme Court-directed report on Expeditious Investigation and Trial of Criminal Cases Against Influential Public Personalities.
Even though the Law Commission’s observation was with reference to the snail’s pace of investigation and trial in the murder of former Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren’s personal aide Shashi Nath Jha, the Supreme Court in the Aarushi murder case has warned her parents, Nupur and Rajesh Talwar, to desist from adopting dilatory tactics and be ready to face exemplary costs.
The Law Commission, in one of its latest reports, said: “The commission feels that such definition (of an influential person in public life) is not feasible and it does not serve any purpose.” It added that to precisely specify the term “influential person in public life” was a “complex task” as it was a “wide and nebulous term”.
The commission said that it would be more appropriate to give an illustrative list of the influential people in public life which may include “MPs, MLAs/MLCs including ministers (former or present)”.
“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,” the report said.
The commission said that “influential persons are not merely those who are holding or who have held public offices; even their henchmen and close relations, the rich and powerful and men with muscle power having links with one or the other political party are quite influential in their own way and they have the potential to create stumbling blocks for smooth investigation and effective trial”.
The apex court had asked the commission to examine the issue while hearing a writ petition on inordinate delay in the investigation and trial of Shibu Soren in a murder case.
Soren was made an accused for his alleged involvement in the murder of his private secretary Shashi Nath Jha. Soren was acquitted in the trial.
The law panel said that it was not desirable to give too liberal a meaning to the term “influential person in public life” so as to include elected representatives at the panchayat level or all the office-bearers of various political parties.
The object of specifying influential people as a category was to enable police and judicial officers concerned to keep track of cases involving such people and try to avoid delays in speedy investigation and trial, the panel said.
“It must be left to the police/judicial officers concerned to identify such persons creating delays and obstacles. Instead of drawing up an exhaustive list of the so-called influential persons, a broad indication as to whose cases should come up for special attention is sufficient,” the report said.