EC’s swift move
The Election Commission has acted with commendable swiftness to forestall the combined move of political parties to subvert a judgment of the Supreme...
The Election Commission has acted with commendable swiftness to forestall the combined move of political parties to subvert a judgment of the Supreme Court that threatened to imperil their political careers. As the government was planning to seek a review of the Supreme Court order disqualifying MPs/MLAs immediately upon their conviction, the Election Commission has moved to operationalize the judgment by asking States and Union Territories to track and promptly report conviction of MPs/MLAs to Speaker or Chairman of the concerned House and to itself. It sought from chief secretaries of States/UTs on Wednesday a monthly report of convictions of Parliamentarians and legislators.
"If any sitting member of Parliament or a State legislature is convicted and/or sentenced to imprisonment/fine after the date of this (SC) judgment, and if the provisions of sub-sections 1, 2, and 3 of Section 8 (of RPA) are attracted, he/she will be disqualified from membership forthwith and the seat will become vacant. To monitor such cases, it is necessary to have a system in place so that cases of conviction ... are immediately communicated to the Speaker/chairman of the House and to the Commission.”
Asking States to devise a foolproof mechanism by involving advocate general/directorate of prosecution or other channels for tracking and promptly reporting cases of conviction of MPs/MLAs/MLCs across courts at all levels in the State, the EC sought a monthly report of such convictions “to ensure that cases (attracting immediate disqualification) do not go unnoticed". "The statement may be submitted to the commission by the 15th of every month through the chief electoral officer of the State," the EC said.
In a landmark ruling last month, the Supreme Court had held that charge sheeted MPs/legislators, on conviction, would be immediately disqualified from holding membership of the House without being given three months’ time for appeal. A Bench of Justice AK Patnaik and Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya had struck down as unconstitutional Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act that allowed convicted lawmakers a three-month period for filing appeal to the higher court and to get a stay on the conviction and sentence.
The bench had, however, made it clear that the ruling would be prospective and those who had already filed appeals in various high courts or the Supreme Court against their convictions would be spared. Section 8 of the RP Act deals with disqualification on conviction for certain offences: A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for varying terms under Sections 8 (1) (2) and (3) shall be disqualified from the date of conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years after his release. Even the confirmed critics of the Election Commission are sure to welcome the swift, preventive, action it has taken in this case, although it is too early to say if politicians will take its initiative in the right spirit. It is clear that the Commission has been emboldened by the public response to the apex court order.