New Delhi, December 3: The central government Thursday opposed a plea to impose lifetime ban on politicians convicted of criminal cases from contesting elections. The Ministry of Law and Justice made this submission before the Supreme Court in a case related to electoral reforms.
The petitioner, advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, referred to the rule that debars public servants from services for life if found guilty of a crime, and contended that lawmakers fall in the category of public servants too and hence should not be treated differently, The Print reported.
The law ministry said politicians and public servants cannot be equated for the purposes of punishment because they are governed by two different laws. While the Representation of People’s Act (RPA) lays down rules for lawmakers, bureaucrats need to follow the service rules.
“The elected representatives are ordinarily bound by the oath they take to serve citizens,” stated the ministry’s affidavit.
It added: “There is no apparent discrimination between public servants and elected representatives in so far as any offence committed by either are concerned. Both are held under Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as other laws in force.”
Upadhyay had filed his amendment application in a pending writ petition seeking directions to expedite criminal trials against MPs and MLAs.
According to Upadhyay, RPA violates Article 14 because while public servants are debarred from services for lifetime if convicted of offences under various provisions of the IPC and other laws, a convicted legislator is only disqualified for a period specified in the election law.
But the government’s affidavit noted, “Their conduct is bound by propriety, good conscience and are expected to generally work in the interest of the nation. They are already bound by the disqualification in terms of the RPA as well as various directions and precedents as laid down by this court from time to time.”
Public servants, it added, are regulated by service laws, including retirement rules.
In his application, Upadhyay had questioned the vires of sections 8 (1), 8 (2), 8 (3) and 9 of the RPA that relate to disqualification of lawmakers on conviction of certain offences and on ground of corrupt practices.
Upadhyay had asked the court to delete and declare the words “and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release” in the sub-sections of section 8 as invalid and ultra vires (Latin, for an act which requires legal authority but is done without it). Similarly, the words “for a period of five years from the date of such dismissal”, he said, should be severed from Section 9 of the RPA.
Such a direction, the ministry submitted, would amount to amending the law. The government insisted that lawmakers are not above the law, but equally bound by the provision of various statutes in force.
The ministry also urged the court not to enlarge the scope of the petition filed by Upadhyay, saying there was no justification to challenge the vires of the law.