Constitution Bench of Supreme Court to decide if MPs, MLAs can be disqualified upon framing of charges

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New Delhi: Tuesday, i.e. on 8th day of March, the honourable Supreme Court of India has decided to lay down the law on issue that the ‘whether the country should even wait until a corrupt legislator is convicted to have him disqualified from Parliament or Assembly. The decision was taken while the Apex Court has open the third chapter against corruption in politics.

It was seen that the issue of legislators, facing criminal trial, should be disqualified at the very stage of framing of charges against them in trial court, is being referred to a Constitution Bench by the Three- Judge Bench, headed by Justice- Ranjan Gogoi. Also, the issue contains that, whether, the disqualification of such legislator to be kept in abeyance till he is convicted.

Moreover, it is notable that the fact of referral of matter from the Supreme Court to the Chief Justice of India- T. S. Thakur, indicating that the apex court is positive in resolving to settle the concerned ‘substantial question of law’. Such reference is made under the provisions of the Article 145 (3) of the Constitution of India, where a Constitution bench is created comprising of Five judges. And for settling this issue, there should be an interpretation of the Constitutional law also.

The court has been tightening its grip on corruption in politics from 2013 when it first held that legislators, on conviction, would be immediately disqualified from holding membership of the House without being given three months’ time for appeal, as was the case before. Before this verdict, convicted lawmakers would file an appeal in the higher court and continue in the House.

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In March 2014, the Supreme Court passed an interim order that criminal trials, especially those dealing with corruption and heinous offences, involving elected representatives should be completed in a year. This order prevented lawmakers from sitting in the House as their cases dragged on. Meenakshi Arora, who appeared for the Election Commission in the case, told The Hindu that Tuesday’s reference to the Constitution Bench was the third chapter of a “clean-up act” started in 2013. The hearing was on petitions filed by the Public Interest Foundation and former Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh.

Section 8 of the Representation of the People 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 since his release.

In 2013, the Bench found it unconstitutional that convicted persons could be disqualified from contesting elections but could continue to be Members of Parliament and State Legislatures once elected.

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Adv. Faim Khalilkhan Pathan

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