MPs, MLAs to be Disqualified on Date of Criminal Conviction
The Supreme Court on 10th July, 2013 struck down as ultra vires a provision of the Representation of the People Act which protects convicted lawmakers against disqualification on the ground of pendency of appeal against their conviction in the higher courts.
“The only question is about the vires of section 8 ( 4 ) of the Representation of the People Act ( RPA ) and we hold that it is ultra vires and that the disqualification takes place from the date of conviction,” a bench of justices A K Patnaik and S J Mukhopadhaya said.
The court, however, said that its decision will not apply to MPs, MLAs or other lawmakers who have been convicted and have filed their appeals in the higher courts before the pronouncement of this verdict.
The provision of RPA says that a lawmaker cannot be disqualified in the event of his conviction in a criminal case if he or she files an appeal in the higher court.
The apex court’s verdict came on the petitions filed by Lily Thomas and NGO Lok Prahari through its secretary S N Shukla who had sought striking down of various provisions of RPA on the ground that they violate certain constitutional provisions which, among other things, expressly put a bar on criminals getting registered as voters or becoming MPs or MLAs.
The PILs had said that certain sections of RPA allow convicted lawmakers to continue in office while their appeals are pending and thus those provisions are “discriminatory and encourage criminalization of politics”.
Writing the judgment, Justice Patnaik said : “ The language of Articles 102 ( 1 ) ( e ) and 191 ( 1 ) ( e ) of the Constitution is such that the disqualification for both a person to be chosen as a member of a House of Parliament or the State Legislature and for a person to continue as a member of Parliament or the State Legislature has to be the same.”
It said, “Sitting members of Parliament and State Legislature who have already been convicted for any of the offences mentioned in sub – section ( 1 ), ( 2 ) and ( 3 ) of Section 8 of the Act and who have filed appeals or revisions which are pending and are accordingly saved from the disqualifications by virtue of sub – section ( 4 ) of Section 8 of the Act should not, in our considered opinion, be affected by the declaration now made by us in this judgement.
“This is because the knowledge that sitting members of Parliament or State Legislatures will no longer be protected by sub – section ( 4 ) of Section 8 of the Act will be acquired by all concerned only on the date this judgement is pronounced by this Court.”
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