Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Disqualification of convicted politicians: SC refuses to hear Centre's review plea

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to entertain the Centre's plea seeking a review of its verdict on disqualification of MPs and MLAs on being convicted in a criminal case.

The apex court, however, agreed to hear the Centre's petition seeking review of its judgment barring arrested persons from contesting elections.

Earlier, the Union Cabinet on August 22 had cleared the proposal to allow convicted lawmakers to retain their membership till an appeal is pending before a court while suspending their voting rights.

According to the law ministry's proposal to amend the Representation of People Act, an MP or MLA can retain membership even after conviction if his or her appeal is pending before a court and sentence is stayed, but he or she shall neither be entitled to vote nor draw salary and allowances.

The move was necessitated after the Supreme Court ruling disqualifying a legislator in the event of a conviction for an offence attracting a sentence of more than two years.

The proposal also suggests adding a new clause to the Constitution to say that a person can contest elections even if he can't vote. It states that a person cannot cease to be a voter while in detention as his or her right is only temporarily suspended. It was argued that as the name of the person in jail continues to be on the electoral role, he or she also continues to be an elector and can file nomination for election.

The amendment to the RP Act shall come into effect from July 10, 2013, the day the Supreme Court gave the landmark judgment which was seen as a big step towards cleaning up the political system.

At an all-party meeting, political parties across the board opposed the apex court order, arguing it could be misused to settle scores. Political parties voiced concerns about "judicial overreach" and argued that the supremacy of Parliament must be maintained and if required, amendments must be brought in the Constitution.

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