New Delhi, Nov 1: The Election Commission has advocated imposing a life ban on convicted MPs and MLAs from contesting elections. During a hearing, the central poll body told the Supreme Court that it is in favour of barring convicted MLAs, MPs for life.
Under the current law, a legislator is debarred for six years from contesting elections once he is convicted for heinous or moral offences. Various pleas have knocked the Supreme Court’s door arguing that the ban should be lifetime at par with the judiciary and executive where a person cannot hold office for life post conviction.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwani Upadhyay had even filed a PIL seeking a lifetime ban on MPs, MLAs from contesting elections.
Earlier in July, the Election Commission faced the flak of the Supreme Court for not taking a clear stand on a plea seeking barring of convicted politicians for life.
A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha had came down heavily on the poll panel and also asked whether it was “constrained” to give its views in the matter.
“Is silence an option for you (ECI)? You must say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether you are supporting the petitioner. You are the ECI and here is a citizen of India who has come here to seek life-time debarment of convicted persons. Can you say I will be silent? No, you cannot,” the bench said.
“If you (ECI) feel constrained by the legislature, then let us know. If you are even constrained to the extent of giving your view, feel free and say so clearly,” it said.
Referring to the ECI’s reply, the apex court said it was clear that the poll panel has supported the cause espoused by petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking a life ban for convicted politicians.
End of Lalu’s Political Career?
The Election Commission’s latest submission in the apex court could have far reaching consequences on top leaders like Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad who has been convicted in fodder scam.
Former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad was sentenced to five years in prison in October 2013 after being convicted in a 17-year-old case related to the embezzlement of Rs 37 crore meant for the purchase of cattle fodder for farmers in the state.
The Supreme Court in 2013 had struck down sub-section 4 of Section 8 of Representation of the People Act, under which incumbent MPs, MLAs and MLCs can avoid disqualification till pendency of the appeal against conviction in a higher court.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Lalu Prasad, who represented Bihar’s Saran in Parliament’s lower house, was disqualified from Lok Sabha. (Also Read: Disqualified to contest elections, RJD chief Lalu Prasad exchanges garland with wife Rabri to handover his fortress)
Seeking to negate the Supreme Court’s verdict, the UPA government had introduced a bill in Parliament in the Monsoon session. But following differences with the Opposition, the bill could not be passed.
An ordinance on the lines of the bill was later cleared by the Union Cabinet on September 24 to protect convicted lawmakers.
But reversing its earlier step, the Cabinet decided to withdraw the Ordinance as well as the bill in the wake of public outburst against it by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
The overturning of the decision came in the wake of Rahul Gandhi’s trashing of the Ordinance as “nonsense”. He had said it should be “torn” and “thrown out”.