Can a leopard change its spots?  ~ subrata chowdhury
Of late, news has been coming in that some or the other Member of Parliament has been found guilty of an unlawful act by a court of law. In cases where lawmakers have been sentenced to more than two years of jail, the media has reported that the convicted MP would be disqualified forthwith. The same rule would apply to members of state Assemblies as well. This is as per a recent ruling by the Supreme Court. Such incidents are certainly of national concern and virtually serve a notice to erring politicians who indulge in similar malfeasance by virtue of holding their high offices.
But an intricate issue has been left by the wayside. What of legislators who commit “lesser” crimes inviting detention behind bars for a period lesser than two years? The answer is very simple. They would continue to sit inside the sanctum sanctorum; the Parliament or the State Assembly for the remainder of their term. The Indian Penal Code has defined periods of punishment for various criminal acts. Offences that elicit imprisonment lesser than two years include thieving, picking pockets, embezzlement of a smaller amounts of money than specified in the code, vandalism, brawl, breaking prohibitions and so on and so forth.
Let us now visualize a scenario: an MP is caught picking the pocket of one of his peers, most likely from the opposite camp, during the winter session of Parliament (winter session because it is easy to pick a pocket through shawls and fluffy apparels and the pick-pocket has the liberty to wear a duffel coat to hide his visage). Or let&’s imagine an MLA is aught breaking into the house of another to steal some wads of dough he knows to have been paid as a swap against a certain favour the other MLA had extended to a profiteering trader and stashed under the carpet. There could also be an MP who is nabbed for having engaged himself in a street-fight with a venturesome lens-man known for his derring-do, trying to record footage of his amatory indulgences with his paramour in a nook at the back of a car.
Each of them after a just trial would be drawing incarcerations not likely for more than two years. And when freed, wouldn’t they growl in their respective venues and continue with their escapades unabated?
In long and short, an inference could be drawn that a pick-pocket or a thief or a rowdy would be eligible to contest for a seat in the Lok Sabha or a state Assembly or be entitled to be chosen for a nomination to the Upper Houses since he (or she) had never been sentenced to an imprisonment for a term of over two years at a go. That&’s not a very comforting feeling.