Plea to bar 4 MPs from voting denied urgent hearing

July 22nd, 2008 - 7:19 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) Hours before the crucial voting on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trust motion in parliament, the Supreme Court Tuesday refused to accord an urgent hearing to a plea to bar four murder-convict MPs from voting. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan refused urgent hearing to the lawsuit, filed Monday evening by Allahabad-based Ashok Pandey, saying that it will examine the issue in due course.

“Sorry we cannot hear it now. We have got some other serious business. If you have filed it, it will come in the normal course,” said the bench that also included Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice J.M. Panchal.

Insisting that his lawsuit was a matter of immense legal and constitutional importance, Pandey said the whole nation is watching the spectacle of the government depending upon convicted murderers for its survival.

At this the bench said: “You also want the attention of the whole nation.”

The four parliamentarians whom advocate Pandey wanted the court to prevent from voting on the trust motion are Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) Mohammed Shahabuddin and Rajeev Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, besides Samajwadi Party’s Mitrasen Yadav and Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP) Suraj Bhan Singh.

In his petition, advocate Pandey has also challenged the legality of an electoral law, section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, that protects a convicted lawmaker from disqualification as long as his appeal against his conviction and sentence is pending in a higher court.

Owing to the voting on the trust motion slated Tuesday evening, advocate Pandey’s plea to bar the four murder-convict MPs from voting in the trust motion will become infructuous after the voting.

But owing to his lawsuit challenging the constitutional validity of section 8(4) of the act, the petition would still be left with some larger legal questions on criminalisation of politics, to be dealt by the apex court later.

Pandey had sought to stop the four parliamentarian from participating in the voting process contending that it would negate the original spirit of the constitution which envisaged immediate disqualification of convicted people from membership of parliament.

He had also contended in his petition that that letting the four MPs participate in the ongoing special session of parliament - and eventually casting their vote in the trust motion - would also violate an apex court ruling that a person, convicted of a crime and sentenced to over two years of jail term, would be ineligible for becoming an MP and participate in parliament proceedings.

Challenging the legality of section 8(4) of the act, 1951, Pandey said that at the time of drafting of the constitution, its framers had envisaged automatic and immediate disqualification of a person as a lawmaker after his conviction for a criminal offence.

It is clear from the constituent assembly debate that an amendment was sought to be introduced to protect lawmakers from disqualification till pendency of the appeal in a higher court, “but that provision was rejected”, said Pandey in his petition.

He contended that what had been discarded by the original founding fathers of the Constitution should not have been made a law later by any government to protect lawmakers having criminal antecedents.

In support of his contention, Pandey also cited a 2001 ruling of the apex court which barred AIADMK president J. Jayalalitha from contesting state assembly elections in Tamil Nadu after her conviction in a corruption case entailing a three-year jail term.

The apex court had disallowed her from contesting election despite the fact that her sentence had been suspended by the high court where her appeal was still pending.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Politics |