Ordinance route to save convicted lawmakers?

Nagendar Sharma

New Delhi, Sept. 23 -- The government may bring in an ordinance to reverse the Supreme Court judgment that calls for immediate disqualification of lawmakers convicted of a criminal offence punishable with two years or more in jail, HT has learnt.

The final decision on the proposal being deliberated within the government will depend on the Congress leadership, which will consider among other issues the likely view the opposition, particularly the BJP, would take on the matter.

The government proposes to allow convicted MPs/MLAs to continue if their appeal is admitted by a higher court within 90 days and the conviction stayed. The lawmakers, however, will not vote or draw salaries till the case is decided.

Following the court order, senior Congress Rajya Sabha member Rashid Masood, convicted in a corruption case on September 19 and to be sentenced on October 1, stands to lose his seat.

Former rail minister and chief of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, which gives outside support to the UPA, Lalu Prasad will lose his membership of the Lok Sabha if found guilty in a fodder scam case to be decided on September 30.

Though a bill to amend the election law was introduced in the Rajya Sabha during the recently concluded monsoon session, it could not be taken up due to lack of unanimity among various parties.

The dilemma faced by the government is if it waits for the winter session, Masood will definitely lose his seat.

The government had come in for severe criticism the last time it took the ordinance route -- for the food law in July. The law has since been passed by Parliament.

The government also risks adverse public opinion in an election year, given the growing demand to check criminalisation of politics. It could also face uncomfortable questions as the bill is pending in Parliament.

The ordinance can come into effect as a law immediately but will have to be ratified by Parliament in the next session.

Most of the parties had reacted strongly against the July 10 verdict of the SC and wanted it reversed through an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, but public opinion forced a rethink.

After the court dismissed a review plea filed by the government on September 4, the order is now the law of the land.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.