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Cabinet to take up changes in RPA tomorrow

Proposal to retain 90-day window to seek revision but only after stay on conviction

Seeking to set aside the recent Supreme Court judgment disqualifying convicted MPs and MLAs,the government has proposed critical changes in the Representation of the People Act that will retain the 90-day window to seek revision but on condition that a higher court stay is obtained against the conviction.

If a stay is not obtained by the MP or MLA within three months against the conviction,he or she will stand disqualified. Additionally,the government has also proposed that the convicted lawmaker should forfeit his right to vote as well as his salary and allowances as an MP or MLA. Besides these amendments — to be taken up by the Cabinet on Thursday — the government has also decided to file a review petition against the July 10 judgment by a Bench of Justices A K Patnaik and S J Mukhopadhyaya.

The “corrective measures” in the form of the proposed amendments critically seek to address the apex court’s contention that Section 8(4) of the RP Act is ultra vires of the Constitution by putting the ball on the judiciary itself.

The government has proposed that Section 8 (4) be substituted in a manner that will stop disqualification from becoming effective “if an appeal or application for revision is filed in respect of the conviction and sentence within a period of 90 days from date of conviction and such conviction is stayed by the court”.

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Currently,the clause gives protection to MPs and MLAs and allows them to continue even after conviction just on the basis of an appeal that has to be filed within three months.

Raising the issue of jurisdiction of Parliament to enact provisions of Section 8 (4) of the RP Act,the apex court had held that this was unconstitutional as provisions of Article 101(3) (a) and 190(3) (a) of the Constitution expressly prohibit Parliament to defer the date from which the disqualification will come into effect in case of a sitting member of Parliament or assembly. The amendments proposed by the government also seek to curtail a convicted MP or MLA’s status as a lawmaker.

On challenging the SC judgment,the government note says that the Law Ministry’s legislative department examined it and held consultations with the attorney general,who opined it was a “fit case” for filing a review petition on ground that provision of Article 145 (3) of the Constitution has been violated. Any matter relating to substantial question of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution should be decided by a bench of five or more judges,says the article.

First published on: 21-08-2013 at 01:31:57 am
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