Centre opposes PIL in Supreme Court seeking lifetime ban on convicted politicians

Saying elected representatives are “equally bound” by law, the Centre on Thursday opposed in the Supreme Court the amended PIL seeking imposition of a lifetime ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, in his amended PIL, has sought lifetime ban on convicted persons including politicians, from contesting elections as against the six-year ban from the date of release after serving the jail terms of two years or more as provided under the Representation of Peoples Act (RPA), news agency PTI said in its report.

The Law Ministry, in its affidavit, said: “It is submitted that the application for amendment is devoid of merits and does not justify the challenge to the vires of the statutory provisions under the RPA, 1951.”

The affidavit, filed through the ministry’s official S Mahesh Babu, stated that the amended application does not indicate existence of any conclusive and factual material to substantiate the contention that the provisions challenged are unconstitutional and ultra vires.

“The elected representatives are ordinarily bound by oath that they have taken to serve the citizens of their constituency in particular and country in general. Their conduct is bound by propriety and good conscience. Elected representatives are not above the law and are equally bound by provisions of various statutes in force. Thus no distinction between public servants and elected representatives,” PTI quoted the affidavit.

Centre has also referred to the fact that the apex court, in its judgement in the case of Public Interest Foundation vs Union of India, had already dealt with this aspect and moreover, the legislature had clearly enumerated the grounds for disqualification of an elected representative.

Earlier, a bench headed by Justice N V Ramana had sought response of the Centre on the amended plea of Upadhyay.

“Direct the Respondent-1 (Centre) to take appropriate steps to setup Special Courts to decide the cases related to people representative and public servants within one year and implement the important electoral reforms, proposed by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, Law Commission of India in its 244th and 255th Report and Election Commission,” said one of the amended prayers.

The fresh plea has also sought a direction to the Centre to take appropriate steps to debar the person convicted for the offences specified under some provisions of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) from contesting “MLA or MP election, forming a political party or becoming office bearer of political party”.

The plea has also sought some changes in the RPA provisions to ensure that politicians should not get special relief such as contesting elections after the expiry of six years after conviction and sentence.

“That when a member of Executive/Judiciary is convicted for even a minor crime, he is debarred from his services for lifetime. But a Legislator, convicted for even heinous crimes like murder, rape, smuggling, money laundering, dacoity etc. is debarred only from contesting the election merely for six years, therefore, Section 8 and 9 of the RPA is against the spirit of the Article 14 and basic structure of the Constitution.

“Moreover, a convicted person, being behind the bar, can form his own political party or become officer bearer of the political party,” Upadhyay said in his plea.

The apex court has been passing several directions to fast-track trials so that sitting MLAs and MPs facing charges can get a quick decision from the courts.

The top court has been told that the politicians are facing criminal trials in 4,442 cases across the nation and out of these and sitting MPs and MLAs are undertrials in as many as 2,556 such matters.

It has been dealing with the petition of Upadhyay seeking various reliefs including inflicting of lifetime ban on convicted politicians.

(With inputs from PTI)

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