Govt plans to bar convicted MPs, MLAs from House

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IN WHAT is expected to be a delicate balancing act that is being seen as a please-all move, the government has put in motion a plan to amend the law to deal with the issue of criminalisation of politics.

The decision comes close on the heels of this month's Supreme Court ruling which held Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act (RPA) unconstitutional and ordered that MPs, MLAs and MLCs would be disqualified the day they are convicted.

The ruling was, however, opposed by almost all major political parties.

A proposal by the law ministry, accessed by The Sunday Express, seeks to address the concerns of the politicians while satisfying the courts, activists and the public at the same time.

The ministry's department of legislative affairs, which is the administrative department for the Election Commission of India (ECI), has sent a Cabinet note to the Law Commission suggesting amendments to the RPA.

However, the proposed amendments seem to fall well short of what the Supreme Court judgment mandates.

Among the amendments is one that proposes to debar a member of a legislature, who is convicted for a prison term of not less than two years and whose appeal against the conviction is pending before a higher court, from participating in the proceedings of the legislature until the appeal is disposed.

Another amendment, this one proposed in Section 8 of the RPA, proposes to disqualify any person against whom charges have been framed in a crime which carries a jail term of five or more years. However, the charges should have been framed by the court at least one year before the date of notification of the elections.

The ministry has also proposed that a politician convicted by any court for having filed a false affidavit should be disqualified from contesting elections for a period of three years from the date of the court order. At present, the maximum punishment for this crime is six months.

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