Parliament passes bill to allow those in jail to contest polls
New Delhi, September 06:
Negating a Supreme Court order, Parliament Friday passed a bill that maintains the right of those in jail to contest polls, with the government saying the court verdict was wrong and the Legislature has Constitutional duty to correct it.
The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013 was rushed through in the Lok Sabha and passed within about 15 minutes after a brief discussion.
Some members wanted an elaborate debate on the bill but the overwhelming majority of the House, including Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, pushed for its passage even without discussion.
The Bill negates the July 10 order of the Supreme Court which held that those in jail cannot vote as per RP Act and hence cannot qualify for contesting elections to Parliament or state legislatures.
The Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on August 27.
Moving the bill for consideration and passage, Law Minister Kapil Sibal said, "The Supreme Court is right because it is final, it is not right because it is right."
Talking about the apprehensions caused by the apex court verdict, he said, "If an SHO decides to detain you on the eve of elections, then you cannot file nominations."
He said, "It is our constitutional duty to correct it (the verdict)." Sibal's views were on the lines of some of the members, including Kirti Azad (BJP) and Dara Singh Chouhan (BSP).
The Amendment Bill seeks to add a proviso to sub-section (2) of section 62 of the RP Act to state that a person cannot cease to be a voter while in detention as his or her right is only temporarily suspended.
One of the amendments states that as the name of the jailed person continues to be on the electoral rolls, he or she also continues to be an elector and can file nomination for an election.
"Provided further that by reason of the prohibition to vote under this sub-section, a person whose name has been entered in the electoral roll shall not cease to be an elector," the proviso reads.
The amendment shall come into effect from July 10, 2013, the day the Supreme Court gave the judgement.
After examining the Supreme Court order, government had filed a review petition, but instead of waiting for the outcome, it felt the need to "suitably" address the situation, the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states.
The apex court had on Wednesday agreed to review the judgement.
In its verdict the apex court had ruled that only an "elector" can contest the polls and he/she ceases the right to cast vote due to confinement in prison or being in custody of police.
The court had, however, made it clear that disqualification would not be applicable to persons subjected to preventive detention under any law.
Parliament should back the court, not criminals-- The Hindu
Enough is enough seems to be the Supreme Court’s mood these days. When Parliament has singularly failed to stop the entry of criminals into its portals, the Supreme Court has taken upon itself the task of tackling what has become a serious blot on our democratic system.
The court came out with an important judgment on July 10 to ensure that those who are convicted of serious crimes cannot sit in Parliament or State legislatures simply by filing an appeal. The crucial verdict struck down as unconstitutional Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act that gives elected convicts the cover of appeal in order to sit in Parliament or State Assemblies for years.
In one bold stroke, this cover has been rightly snatched away. Convicted legislators who are already on appeal have not been touched by the court’s verdict.
The court, which allowed writ petitions filed by a public-spirited advocate Lily Thomas and Lok Prahari, a non-governmental organisation fighting for people’s rights, took recourse to Articles 102 and Article 191 of the Constitution to declare section 8(4) ultra vires. The judgment makes it clear that the same disqualification clause must apply both to a person chosen to be a member of Parliament or State Legislature and for a person to continue as an MP or MLA.
The court has, however, excluded from the new disqualification doctrine the legion of MPs and MLAs already convicted, mainly because it does not want to provoke a confrontation between the judiciary and Parliament. Only prospective convicts will thus be disqualified.
While the Supreme Court verdict is a blow against criminals sitting in legislatures, I believe it has not gone far enough in tackling the menace of criminalisation that is corroding our democracy.
The Supreme Court had earlier favoured the view that once charges are framed against a candidate by a magistrate, his or her nomination papers should be rejected. This shuts the electoral door on criminals at the entry point — even before their conviction. That would have been a more effective remedy than the recent judgment.
The Election Commission sided with the Supreme Court and had called a meeting of political parties to evolve a consensus. But most of them, shockingly, opposed the move on the ground that their candidates could be framed on false charges and kept out of elections.
The court’s latest judgment, which is prospective in nature, has stirred the pot again.
Fearing a backlash, politicians across the political spectrum have seemingly welcomed the court’s view. But already, criticism of the judgment has begun trickling in from various political parties. Indeed, pressure is building on the government to file a review petition. The seeds of possible conflict between Parliament and the judiciary on this issue can already be seen.
What data shows
Political parties are themselves to blame for having brought about the present situation. They ought not to have allowed the entry of criminals into their own ranks. Criminals should not be given tickets to facilitate their entry into Parliament and State legislatures.
The fact is that criminals today are present in our legislative bodies in substantial numbers, exercising their baneful influence on government formation, policies, decision-making, and governance in different parts of the country.
The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) has come out with figures which are staggering. Going by the records of the Election Commission, the ADR says 162 out of 545 Lok Sabha MPs and 1,258 out of 4,032 sitting MLAs have declared that there are criminal cases pending against them. Those among them who have been convicted “in harness” have filed appeals so that they can serve out their full-term.
Can be destabilising
These are huge figures by any measure and can have a destabilising influence on the country.
Not long ago, a government lost power at the Centre by just one vote. Imagine what the 162 members of Parliament with criminal antecedents can do to Parliament if they choose to join hands and form a party of their own, making the political parties that accommodate them irrelevant! Or mafia groups in different States can come to a mutually accommodative arrangement and start governing parts of the country for their own benefit. Unless we send criminals to jail and stop allowing them entry into Parliament or State Assemblies, the future of democracy will always be in danger.
The reason political parties do not want to stop criminals from joining Parliament or State Assemblies is because they want to use them to win more seats. This is a myopic view; one that undermines the very foundations of democracy and its institutions.
The Supreme Court has shown the way. Parliament is entitled to remove some of the infirmities in its judgment, but the court’s view cannot be simply ignored. People across the country have welcomed the court’s judgment. All parties should accept it. Parliament should be on the side of the court and the people — and not with the Raja Bhaiyyas and Shahabuddins of the day.
98% Indians want criminals to stay out of Parliament: Avaaz survey-Business Line
A vast majority of Indians, about 98 per cent, want criminals out of Parliament and Assemblies, says a national survey by global online campaign network, Avaaz.org.
The survey comes in the backdrop of the Supreme Court rejecting the UPA Government’s review petition against its decision to bar convicted politicians from continuing in Parliament or State Assemblies.
Meanwhile, the Government has introduced a Bill in Parliament, seeking an amendment in the Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2013, which, if passed, would overturn the apex court’s ruling.
According to the survey, conducted by Marketing & Development Research Associates and Avaaz.org, covering 8,000 people across India, 96.6 per cent people thought that those convicted of serious crimes should not be allowed to govern the country.
In a press release, Avaaz said several public figures, including some Parliamentarians, such as Jay Panda of the Biju Janata Dal and Dinesh Trivedi of Trinamool Congress, were backing their campaign to keep criminals out Parliament and Assemblies.
The release quoted Panda as saying "Sitting MPs and MLAs ought not to be given benefits which are not available to the average citizen. This defies the equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.”
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha independent MP, has said,”Politicians who have been convicted of criminal offences have no place in Parliament.“
According to the Association of Democratic Reforms, in the 2009 general elections, there were 275 serious criminal cases pending against 76 of the people elected to the Lok Sabha.
Judiciary vs Parliament: SC delivers series of verdicts political parties find unpalatable-Hindustan Times
Satya Prakash , Hindustan Times New Delhi, September 07, 2013
As India heads towards the next general election, political parties are finding it difficult to cope with a slew of Supreme Court verdicts that aim to change the rules of the game.
Coming in quick succession, the orders - ranging from seeking transparency in the functioning of political parties to what they can promise voters, and who they can field - have squeezed their manoeuvring space.
Even before the political class could properly articulate its response to a Central Information Commission verdict declaring political parties as ‘public authorities' under the RTI Act, the SC delivered three verdicts in July, making it difficult for them to get votes the usual way.
Holding that freebies vitiate the election process, the court on July 5 directed the Election Commission to frame guidelines in consultation with political parties to regulate the contents of poll manifestos.
It delivered twin verdicts on July 10 – immediate disqualification of MPs and MLAs on conviction attracting a jail term of two years or more and a ban on persons contesting polls while in lawful custody.
It declared unconstitutional a section of the Representation of the People Act that protected a convicted MP or MLA from disqualification on filing an appeal.
According to a survey by NGO Avaaz, which has been running a campaign to de-criminalise politics, more than 97% Indians want criminals out of Parliament.
"Politicians love big majorities, and over 97% of people want convicted MPs to be forced out of office. The Supreme Court ruling should stand," Avaaz executive director Ricken Patel said.
But, political parties want to overturn the twin SC verdicts.
In 2002, when the SC made it mandatory for candidates to declare their educational qualifications, assets, liabilities and criminal antecedents, if any, the NDA government promulgated an ordinance to undo it. But the SC declared the amendment illegal in 2003.
Will history repeat itself?