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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Apr 2014

Disqualification of convicted lawmakers a tricky issue for govt

Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 02, 2013
First Published: 23:04 IST(2/10/2013) | Last Updated: 16:59 IST(3/10/2013)

The July 10 Supreme Court judgment mandating the immediate disqualification of convicted lawmakers may require fresh guidelines from the government to deal with the new situation.

The cases of disqualification of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief and Lok Sabha MP Lalu Prasad and Congress Rajya Sabha member Rasheed Masood have posed a new challenge to the government, Parliament and election commission officials.

Following many rounds of confabulations on the tricky issue of how to proceed on the immediate disqualification, the Lok Sabha secretariat has referred the matter to the law ministry, which in turn has sought the opinion of the Attorney General.

The question bothering the officials dealing with the matter is who takes the final decision on disqualification and under which rules.

With the Supreme Court having struck down the provision from the Representation of the People Act, which allowed convicted MPs/MLAs to continue till the final disposal of their appeals, such cases rarely bothered the concerned authorities.

Officials point towards the need for fresh guidelines because, till now, routine cases on disqualification pertained to complaints against MPs/MLAs holding offices of profit.

Such complaints were made to the President who referred these to the election commission for scrutiny.

"Such complaints required application of mind and interpretation of various articles of the Constitution. These were, therefore, decided mainly in a meeting attended by all members of the commission," said an official.

In the case of Lalu and Masood, however, the view emerging is that there is no need of making any reference to the President.

"The Supreme Court judgment is the law of the land today. It clearly states that disqualification starts from the very date of conviction by the court. This means there is no need even to wait for the sentencing," a highly placed source said.

"In the instant cases, the presiding officers of respective Houses or assemblies merely need to inform the election commission about the seat of a convicted lawmaker having fallen vacant. All other things are merely technical debates and mean nothing," the source added.

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