Centre disagrees with Election Commission, opposes lifetime ban on convicted legislators

A PIL was filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking to set up special courts for speedy disposal of matters related to legislators and to further bar them from contesting elections for life.

Opposing lifetime ban on convicted Member of Parliaments or of state legislative Assembly members, the Centre has vehemently opposed the suggestion of the Election Commission (EC) to bar the legislators, who have been convicted of criminal offences. Submitting its response to the public interest litigation, the Centre has argued that the current debarment for six years is in no way violative of Article 14.

A PIL was filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, lawyer and BJP leader, seeking to set up special courts for speedy disposal of matters related to legislators and to further bar them from contesting elections for life. Under the current Representation of People's Act, 1951, a person may contest elections after seven years. Earlier, submitting its response in the matter, the EC had supported the petitioner's request for lifetime ban on convicted MPs and MLAs. The Centre, however, took a stand in stark contrast.

The Centre in its affidavit has argued that MPs and MLAs cannot be barred for life as Constitution provides for different positions for legislature, judiciary and executive. The government has further argued that there cannot be a mandamus from the court directing the government to change a law in a certain manner, as it is strictly the domain of the legislature.

The plea had further sought to have an age bar and a bar with respect to educational qualifications. The Centre opposed any such move and has argued that this may disenfranchise a huge part of the population.

Even the bench led by Justice Gogoi hearing the case today questioned petitioner Upadhyay as to how can special courts be set up when there is no data available to find out how many such cases are pending. The bench further observed that earlier judgments of the Supreme Court have already dealt with the issue and asked for speedy disposal of such cases within a year.

With two key authorities taking contrary view, it will be worth watching what will be the stand of the Supreme Court when it hears the matter next on July 12.

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