Issues notices to EC, Bihar govt and NGO
STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
New Delhi, 4 September
The Supreme Court today dismissed a petition challenging its order that a legislator, if convicted, stands disqualified from the date of his conviction and stood by its order that disqualifies convicted politicians from serving as state legislators or parliamentarians.
However, it has agreed to reconsider looking into the question of whether a person in jail has the right to run for office. All political parties had backed the government’s decision to challenge the verdict.
The court has issued notices to the Election Commission, the Bihar government and an NGO. The court said the Representation of People’s Act is a clumsily drafted law. It has observed that the legislature complains about judicial interference when it tries to clear confusion about the law. It, however, said Parliament is free to amend the law if it does not agree with interpretation of law given by the Supreme Court.
“You have no case, there is no error in our order,” said a Bench of Justices A K Patnaik and S J Mukhopadhyay, to the government which had appealed against both aspects of its original verdict, delivered in July.
The judges today said they will review this feature on the limited ground whether disqualification mentioned in the Constitution bars an arrested person from contesting polls or not, but observed: “When a candidate is in jail, it is okay for him to contest. But when a voter is in jail, he can’t vote. What kind of law is this?”
Referring to its 10 July judgment that convicted legislatures would be disqualified as members of the House, the Bench said: “There is no error on the face of the law but there can be on interpretation. We found that there are lacunae in law in this regard which can be considered by the legislatures.
Currently, a lawmaker who is convicted does not have to quit office if an appeal is pending in a higher court. The appeal has to be filed within three months of conviction. The Supreme Court cancelled that provision in its July decision.
All parties had protested against the July verdict to stop anyone in jail from contesting elections, arguing that it would encourage parties in power to have their opponents arrested before elections.