SC verdict to keep criminals out of power

SC verdict to  keep criminals  out of power
Highlights

Disqualification of an MP or MLA will come into effect immediately after the representative is convicted...

  • Disqualification of an MP or MLA will come into effect immediately after the representative is convicted by any court
  • The representative cannot contest elections again and a representative cannot cast his vote from jail
  • Order will not have a retrospective effect
Section 8(4) of representation of the people act� protects a convicted lawmakers against disqualification on the ground of pendency of appeal against their conviction in higher courts
New Delhi (Agencies): In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional the provision of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) that allows elected representatives to continue as members of the elected bodies even after conviction in criminal cases. The decision was given by an apex court bench headed by Justice AK Patnaik. Section 8 sub-clause 4 of RPA permits an elected representative to continue in the legislature or parliament even after he or she has been convicted of a criminal offence, provided he or she gets the stay of the conviction and sentencing by the higher court. Under this provision of RP Act, such a person can even contest elections after the existing House has been dissolved. However, this right to contest elections available to a sitting member is not available to a convict who is not a member of a state legislature or parliament. "The only question is about the vires of section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act and we hold that it is ultra vires and that the disqualification takes place from the date of conviction," justices Patnaik and S J Mukhopadhaya said. In effect, what the Supreme Court order says is that the disqualification of an MP or MLA will come into effect immediately after the representative is convicted by any court. The order also says that the representative cannot contest elections again and a representative cannot cast his vote from jail, under any circumstances. However, the court said this order will not have a retrospective effect so that those who have filed appeals in cases pending against them will not be affected. Earlier, the Centre defended an exception carved out to protect convicted MPs and MLAs from disqualification on the ground that their removal would destabilise governments surviving on a "razor edge thin majority." The top court's verdict came on the petitions filed by Lily Thomas and NGO Lok Prahari through its secretary SN 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 criminalisation of politics".
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