Should convicted netas be disqualified?

22 Sep 2008

NEW DELHI: Should a sitting MP or MLA, if convicted in a criminal case and sentenced to jail term, be disqualified from the House and not permitted to continue his membership merely because he has filed an appeal against conviction before a higher court?

A PIL sought early adjudication of the question already referred to a constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. The pending PILs — one by Basant Kumar Chaudhary and the other by NGO ‘Lok Prahari’ — are challenging Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act that gave this concession to sitting MPs and MLAs.

They have argued that Section 8(4) was in conflict with another provision of the RP Act that barred anyone sentenced to more than two years from contesting elections even if he has filed an appeal in a higher court.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and J M Panchal, while agreeing that it was an important question, said no urgent hearing could be granted.

When the NGO, through S N Shukla, continued with its request for fast-track hearing on the pending petitions, an angry Bench said, ¶These PILs are challenging a provision of RP Act that has been there for the last 50 years. Suddenly, you wake up to challenge it. Elections are around the corner. That is why you people are seeking an early hearing.¶

The UPA government had defended the validity of Section 8(4) and expressed apprehension that removal of the relaxation provided for MPs and MLAs under the RP Act could rock the boats of governments which in the present coalition era survive on a razor-thin majority.

Moreover, it would complicate the situation if the disqualified member was later acquitted by a higher court, it said. 

From YFE Editor: For the background information and analysis, also read:
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