The name of jailed Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on Thursday figured in the Supreme Court during arguments in support of a plea seeking to bar convicted politicians from contesting elections for life. A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha was hearing a plea which sought to declare the provisions of the Representation of People Act (RPA) which bar convicted politician from contesting elections for six years, after serving jail term, as ultra-vires to the Constitution.
Senior advocate Dinesh Dwivedi, appearing for one of the intervenors Rakesh Upadhyay, said that as per existing provisions, even persons like Gurmeet Ram Rahim can fight elections six years after serving the awarded jail term. Moreover, there was no restriction on jailed convicts from running in elections and starting political parties.
Lawyer Ashwini Kumar Updhyay, who has filed the PIL, filed fresh prayers including a direction that convicted persons should also be barred from “forming a political party, becoming an officer-bearer of any political party and/or contesting the election for life” under the Constitution. During arguments, Dwivedi referred to the fact that a civil servant gets suspended within 48 hours of arrest in a criminal case and the services are terminated upon conviction. However in case of politicians, the law provides that they can return to electoral politics six years after serving the jail term, he said.
He said that if a government servant is dismissed from service, there was no question of him coming back but the politicians, after serving the jail term and the six year ban, are statutorily allowed to return to politics. Is it not discriminatory,” the counsel asked, adding that why should the disqualification be for six years only in case of politicians. He said disqualifying politicians for a period of six years only was “perhaps like inviting them again in the field of politics and this would distort the federal structure”. He also referred to the recent verdict in twin rape cases involving Gurmeet Ram Rahim case and said no politician came forward to praise the judge, who was under immense pressure while dealing with the matters highlighting the mental trauma undergone by the two rape survivors.
Dwivedi said despite various reports and recommendations, the legislature has not enhanced the disqualification period for convicted politicians, which was needed to keep the field of politics clean. “There should be a system where a person who is a confirmed criminal should be eliminated from politics,” he said, adding, “we are not asking this court to fill this vacuum but we are just saying that hold this part (of disqualification for six year) as unconstitutional”.
The hearing remained inconclusive and would continue on September 12. The apex court had on July 12 pulled up the Election Commission for not taking a clear stand on a plea seeking barring of convicted politicians for life. It had said the poll panel cannot remain silent on the matter and had wondered whether it was “constrained” to give its views in the matter.
The Centre, in its affidavit, had said the prayer sought by the petitioner seeking life-time bar on convicted lawmakers was not maintainable and the plea should be dismissed. The petition has also sought a direction to the Centre and the Election Commission to fix minimum educational qualification and a maximum age limit for persons contesting elections.