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‘Convicted legislators can’t be barred for life from polls’

Topics Covered: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

‘Convicted legislators can’t be barred for life from polls’:


Context:

The Central government has told the Supreme Court that it rejected the idea of barring convicted legislators for life from contesting elections, forming or becoming an office-bearer of a political party.

What has the Union Ministry of Law and Justice said?

  • An elected representative of the people cannot be equated with public servants who are banned for a lifetime on conviction.
  • Disqualification under the Representation of the People Act of 1951 for the period of the prison sentence and six years thereafter was enough for legislators.

Election Commission’s observations:

The Centre’s stand differs from that taken by the Election Commission, which endorsed a life ban as necessary to “champion the cause of decriminalisation of politics”.

Background:

The case is based on a plea by Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, who argued that:

  1. A life ban on conviction should uniformly apply for members of the judiciary, executive and the legislature.
  2. There should not be any discrimination of one from the other.
  3. An MP or MLA convicted for offences enumerated in Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act should be banned for life.

Rationale behind these arguments:

While a public servant or a government employee is debarred for life on conviction for offences under the Indian Penal Code, money laundering law, foreign exchange violation, UAPA or cheque cases, among other laws, a legislator is “only disqualified for the same offences for a specified period”.

  • However, the counter view is that legislators are not bound by specific “service conditions”.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Section 8 of the RP Act.
  2. SC guidelines in this regard.
  3. Powers of Election Commission on matters related to election of candidates.

Mains Link:

Discuss the concerns associated criminalisation of politics and what the Supreme Court done to address these concerns?

Sources: the Hindu.