Justify letting convicted MPs continue in job: SC to Centre

Pointing out that there had to be a "constitutional solution" to the issue, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to put forth its justification for letting a convicted MP or MLA continue whereas an ordinary citizen faces all the consequences after being held guilty by a court of law.

"If an ordinary citizen does not get the benefit, why should MPs be treated as special class until their appeal is decided. Article 102 of the Constitution puts both the sitting MP and an aspiring one on the same footing. How do you come out with this class of citizens? We are in the field of criminal law. Can Parliament make one law for its members and another for ordinary citizens," a Bench led by Justice A K Patnaik asked.

While hearing a PIL that has dubbed a few provisions of the 1951Representation of People Act as violative of the constitutional principle of equality, the court asked the government's law officers to file an affidavit and clarify their stand.

The affidavit, as per the court, should categorically answer how the impugned Section 8 (4) of the Act can be justified when tested on the anvils of Article 14 (right to equality) and also on Articles 102 and 191 of the Constitution that lays down conditions of disqualification for a MP and MLA. Section 8(4) allows legislators, convicted of different offences, to continue if they have moved superior courts in appeal or revision.

Arguing for the petitioner, senior advocate Fali S Nariman mentioned that out of 543 MPs in the Lok Sabha, 274 in the present house faced criminal charges. "How can one justify treating citizens of the same country in different classes? There cannot be two classes of convicts? Moreover, one must remember the governing principle adumbrated in the Constitution is that of a crime-free legislative body and the principle that upon a conviction of a Member of Parliament or of an assembly a disqualification immediately attaches," he said.

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