Ahead of crucial upcoming Assembly polls in five states, the Supreme Court today said it would “soon constitute” a five-judge bench to decide questions like whether people facing trial in serious crime cases can be allowed to contest and at which stage of trial, a lawmaker would stand disqualified.
“We must clarify this matter so that people know the law by next election,” a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said while considering the submission that these issues needed to be decided at the earliest as many “dreaded criminals”, against whom charges have been framed by courts in serious cases, are planning to contest upcoming Assembly polls.
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“We will soon constitute a Constitution bench to decide these issues,” the bench, also comprising Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud, said.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for lawyer and Delhi BJP spokesperson Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, mentioned the PIL on the issue for urgent hearing on grounds including that many people, facing trial in serious cases, may contest and win elections and hence the legal questions needed to be settled.
During the brief meintioning, the bench also said, “We cannot give an immediate answer to these questions since there is fear of lodging false cases in elections.”
A three-judge bench had on March 8 last year, referred various PILs including the one filed by Upadhyay to the CJI saying the questions like can a lawmaker, facing criminal trial, be disqualified at conviction stage or at the framing of charge in a case have to be decided by a larger bench.
At present, a person, convicted in a serious criminal case, is barred from contesting polls and a lawmaker stands disqualified in the event of conviction.
The questions, raised in the petitions, also include whether a person against whom charges are framed be permitted to contest elections.
Singh told the bench that the ban on contesting polls is not sought against those who are facing charges in petty offences.
Besides Upadhyay, former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh and NGO ‘Public Interest Foundation’ had filed PILs raising similar issues. The pleas were referred to the larger bench which is yet to be set up.