Thursday, September 5, 2013

Political Parties Face Hurdle In Perpetuation Of Their Dirty Mindset

Bill seeking to keep political parties out of RTI 

sent to Parliamentary  panel Sep 5, 2013--

First Post 

New Delhi: The bill which seeks to keep political parties out of the ambit of the transparency law will be sent to a standing committee for wider consultations, government informed the Lok Sabha today. Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy, who piloted the RTI (Amendment) Bill in the House last month, said in a bid to hold wider consultations, the government is recommending that the bill to be referred to the Standing Committee on Law and Personnel.

The bill is also aimed at negating a Central Information Commission (CIC) order which said political parties were public authorities and should come under RTI Act ambit. The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2013 seeks to insert an explanation in Section 2 of the Act which states that any association or body of individuals registered or recognised as political party under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 will not be considered a public authority. 

The CIC order had termed Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI and CPI-M as political authorities. Since the CIC order on six major political parties came on 3 June, the amended Act will come into force with retrospective effect from June. The CIC order is still “operational”, meaning people can seek information on political parties through RTI application. Government had already made it clear that it will not challenge the CIC order in High Court — the appellate court — but bring a bill instead to negate the verdict.

SC stands by its order on disqualifying convicted MPs, MLAs

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday refused to review its verdict that an MP or MLA convicted of any criminal offence attracting a punishment of two years and above will be disqualified immediately but agreed to re-look its other judgement debarring arrested persons from contesting polls. 

The apex court, however, said that Parliament is free to amend law if it does not agree with interpretation of law given by the Supreme Court. 

A bench of justices A K Patnaik and S J Mukhopadhyay said that it would hear review plea on the limited ground whether disqualification mentioned in the constitution bars an arrested person from contesting election or not. 

It also raised questioned on why Centre preferred not to argue the case when the matter was being heard. 

It also said that the Representation of People's Act is "clumsy" which caused the confusion and said that "The object of the provision was to keep the person with criminal background away from election." 

"Parliament frames laws in the manner they like. If we make interpretation of law and if it is not accepted by it (Parliament), its again for Parliament to enact a law," it said. 

Referring to its July 10 judgement 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." 

It said since there was no error in its verdict. Parliament accepted it and came out with the Amendment Bill in RPA which was pased by Rajya Sabha.

"We are not inclined. It is a well considered judgement. Everybody should accept it. We are glad that Parliament has accepted," it said, adding, "We don't find any error apparent in the judgement of July 10. Hence, it (review petition) is dismissed." 

The bench also said that Parliament can go ahead with the amendment saying "We don't want to stall the legislators who have come out with the bill." 

While agreeing to have a fresh look at the issue of arrested persons prohibited from entering the electoral fray, the bench said this matter was not argued well keeping in view the Constitutional provision. 

It said it will consider the issue of disqualification by taking into account Article 102 of the Constitution which deals with disqualification of membership as well as the provisions contained in the electoral law. 

The Centre contended that protecting convicted MPs and MLAs from disqualification during pendency of appeal is necessary "to protect the House and to ensure that governance is not adversely impacted". 

The apex court had on July 10 held that an MP or MLA convicted of any criminal offence attracting a punishment of two years and above will be disqualified immediately and a person, who is in jail or in police custody, cannot contest election to legislative bodies. 

It had declared as unconstitutional a provision in the Section 8(4) of Representation of the People Act that says a convicted legislator can continue in office if he or she appeals in a higher court within three months of the conviction. The verdicts have been widely opposed by politicians cutting across party lines.

Interestingly, the government justified the protective provision for elected member on the ground that the rate of acquittal in Indian judicial system is high and if the elected member is once disqualified on being convicted then his membership of the House cannot be restored after his acquittal. 

It had said Parliament has exceeded its powers by enacting the provision (Section 8(4) of the Representation of Peoples Act) that gives a convicted lawmaker the power to remain in office on the ground that appeals have been filed and pending. 

It had also said that a person, who is in jail or in police custody, cannot contest election to legislative bodies, bringing to an end an era of undertrial politicians fighting polls from behind bars. 

Supreme Court says MPs, MLAs convicted in criminal cases can't stay in office

The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down as ultra vires a provision of the Representation of the People Act which protects a convicted lawmakers against disqualification on the ground of pendency of appeal against their conviction in the higher courts.

"The only question is about the vires of section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) and we hold that it is ultra vires and that the disqualification takes place from the date of conviction," a bench of justices A K Patnaik and S J Mukhopadhaya said.
Criminal MLAs: Zero from Manipur, 189 from Uttar Pradesh

The court, however, said that its decision will not apply to MPs, MLAs or other lawmakers who have been convicted and have filed their appeals in the higher courts before the pronouncement of this verdict.

The provision of RPA says that a lawmaker cannot be disqualified in the event of his conviction in a criminal case if he or she files an appeal in the higher court.

Special: Indian politicians are saints

The apex court's verdict came on the petitions filed by Lily Thomas and NGO Lok Prahari through its secretary S N Shukla who had sought striking down of various provisions of RPA on the ground that they violate certain constitutional provisions which, among other things, expressly put a bar on criminals getting registered as voters or becoming MPs or MLAs.

The PILs had said that certain sections of RPA allow convicted lawmakers to continue in office while their appeals are pending and thus those provisions are "discriminatory and encourage criminalisation of politics".

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