Millennium Post

Criminal politicians can’t contest: Supreme Court

In a landmark judgment on Wednesday that could cleanse the Indian political system from criminal elements, the Supreme Court held that with immediate effect if a sitting member of either House of Parliament or a state legislature is convicted, the member would be immediately disqualified.

The court declared ultra vires a provision, which made them eligible to hold the chair if the member files an appeal or a revision in respect of the conviction or the sentence within three months till the appeal or revision is disposed of by the court.

A bench comprising of Justice AK Patnaik and Justice S J Mukhopadhaya held the provision -- sub-section (4) of Section 8 of the Representation of People Act (RP Act) – ultra vires and said that the disqualification takes place from the date of conviction.

The said provision allowed an elected representative to continue in the legislature or parliament even after being 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 court also made it clear that sitting members of Parliament and State Legislature who have already been convicted 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 will not be affected by this judgment.

It said: ‘However, if any sitting member of Parliament or a State Legislature is convicted of any of the offences mentioned in sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) of Section 8 of the Act and by virtue of such conviction and/or sentence suffers the disqualifications mentioned in sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) of Section 8 of the Act after the pronouncement of this judgment, his membership of Parliament or the State Legislature, as the case may be, will not be saved by sub-section (4) of Section 8 of the Act which we have by this judgment declared as ultra vires the Constitution notwithstanding that he files the appeal or revision against the conviction and/or sentence.’

The apex court gave the landmark order on Public Interest Litigation seeking striking down of the various provisions of RP Act on the ground that they violate certain constitutional provisions. The PILs had said that certain sections of the RP Act allow convicted lawmakers to continue in office while their appeals are pending and thus provisions are discriminatory and encourage criminalisation of politics.
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