Can't bar convicted MPs, MLAs: govt

Utkarsh Anand Posted: Feb 13, 2013 at 0143 hrs
New Delhi Justifying the continuation of MPs or MLAs even after their conviction by a court of law, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that this privilege was given to ensure “very existence and continuity of the House democratically constituted” and bring in certainty in cases where the ruling party may be surviving on a thin majority.

In an affidavit before a Bench led by Justice A K Patnaik, the Ministry of Law and Justice has said that this protection under the Representation of People Act was accorded to convicted MPs and MLAs “so that the working of the House is not disrupted” and also keeping in view of the electorate that voted for the member.

“It is further submitted that it (disqualification) also affects the right to the electorate who votes for a certain candidate keeping in mind the said candidate shares the same views and ideology as the electorate... Section 8(4) of the Act not only protects the House from being disrupted but also the constitutional rights of the electorate and brings in certainty,” stated the affidavit. It will be taken up by the court on Wednesday.

If this protection was not given until the appeal was finally decided by the top most court and membership was forfeited as soon as the first conviction is pronounced, the Centre said, not only the strength of the House but also the strength of the political party, to which such a member is affiliated to, will stand reduced. “The government in power may be surviving on a razor edge thin majority where each member counts significantly and disqualification of even one member may have a deleterious effect on the functioning of the government,” it said

Claiming that the constitutional validity of the Act had already been upheld by the apex court in a previous judgment, the Centre said that the issue in hand pertained to a policy decision and it was for Parliament to decide the appropriate mechanism best suited for protecting the interest of political democracy.

It also said that no law can be struck down by the court on the grounds of being “arbitrary and unreasonable or unjustified” and that a court could intervene only if there was a violation of fundamental rights or there was lack of legislative competence.

The Bench had on the last date asked the Centre to put forth its justification for letting a convicted MP or MLA continue whereas an ordinary citizen faces all the consequences after being held guilty by a court of law.

The court is hearing a PIL that has dubbed a few provisions of the 1951 Act as violative of the constitutional principle of equality.