The Centre has opposed in the Supreme Court a demand to bar convicted politicians for life from contesting polls. Submitting its affidavit, the government said that there were already adequate provisions in the Representation of the People Act (RPA) to deal with disqualification of convicted persons and no further stipulation on this subject was called for.
“The provisions (in RPA) involved are intra-vires and have been in the statute book for quite some time and continue to serve the purpose for which these are enacted i.e. curbing the entry of persons with criminal antecedents into political arena,” maintained the government in its affidavit before a bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi. It pointed out that a constitutional court could step in only when there was legislative vacuum in an area of public interest but since there were already subsisting legal provisions, the issue was “outside the scope of judicial review”.
The existing legal regime under the RPA lays down that a politician convicted and sentenced to a jail term of two years or more shall be disqualified from contesting polls for six years from the date of his release from prison after conclusion of the term. Last month, filing a short affidavit, the Election Commission had supported the demand raised by PIL petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay for barring convicted politicians for life from contesting polls. The EC had said it “supports the cause espoused by the petitioner”.
The government maintained in its affidavit, filed through the Ministry of Law and Justice, that, “Given the nature and significance of functions of the Members of the Parliament and the State Legislature, their disqualifications are constitutionally provided and limited to what is specified under Article 102 (on disqualification of MPs) and this cannot be said to be arbitrary or violative of Article 14 (equality) of the Constitution.”
About Upadhyay’s request for setting up special courts for speedy decisions in cases against politicians, the government said the prayer was “unwarranted”. The affidavit also rejected Upadhyay’s plea for prescribing minimum educational qualification and age limits for MPs and MLAs. “This would again require either an amendment of the Article 83/ 173 of the Constitution or an amendment of the RP Act. As already submitted, there cannot be a mandamus asking the Govt. to make a law or introduce amendments to an existing law and hence this prayer is also for a relief that cannot be granted by the Courts,” said the government.
Upadhyay’s petition came up for hearing on Tuesday, when the bench told the petitioner he would have to justify why special courts would be required when there is already a direction for preferably deciding such cases in one year. “Besides, who will set up these courts? Unless there is a scheme, why should the Union government