With the government under flak for the inordinate delay in prosecuting persons accused of bribery and corruption and complex financial crimes, the establishment of a proposed special High Court to expedite cases relating to charges under the specified ambit is now on the cards with the draft legislation finalized, authoritative sources said.
In terms of the proposed legislation, the High Court will be empowered to hear cases, apart from charges relating to bribery and corruption, those also involving complex financial crimes, which include criminal breach of trust, misappropriation, money laundering, terrorist financing, organized crime and offences against public property and similar offences.
The proposed High Court to be set up under Article 105 (1) (c) of the Constitution, will have three benches of judges with each bench comprising three to hear trials on a daily basis. The judges will be nominated by the Chief Justice, the sources said.
Offences under certain Acts and Laws, which the High Court will have jurisdiction to hear, will be specified in a schedule relating to the new legislation. Cases will be referred to the Court by the direction of the Chief Justice on his own motion considering the nature of the offence or the circumstance of and relating to the commission of the offence in the interest of justice or on the request of the Attorney General, the sources explained.
The trial will be held either upon indictment or upon information exhibited by the Attorney General. There will be one appeal from an order of the proposed High Court to the Supreme Court.
It has also been proposed to make any consequential amendments to any Acts or Laws, as may be necessary, and any incidental amendments that may also be necessary to give effect to this piece of legislation.
On November 5, 2017, the Cabinet of Minister approved a paper submitted by the Justice Minister and gave the green light for the establishment of the proposed High Court, noting that “financial crimes, corruption, defrauding the government of its assets and revenue and similar offences, have seen a proliferation in recent times”.
It was also noted that “owing to the enormous backlog of cases now blocking the court system, cases relating to the specified offences cannot be heard expeditiously. This has an undesirable effect on the entire community as many of the perpetrators are at large, having been enlarged on bail, or otherwise”.
A special division is expected to be carved out at the Attorney General’s department to render legal assistance to facilitate the expeditious progression of the cases, with sights on completing trials within a reasonable time frame, probably within two to three years, the sources asserted.