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Nagendar Sharma , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, October 19, 2013
Putting an end to the uncertainty over the disqualification of MPs Lalu Prasad and Jagdish Sharma, both convicted in the fodder scam case, the law ministry has asked the Lok Sabha secretariat to immediately declare their seats vacant. The ministry’s advice, based on the opinion of top law officer, attorney general GE Vahanvati, has come on queries posed by the Lok Sabha secretariat on whether MPs can be disqualified before their appeals are finally decided by higher courts.

In a related but separate development, the Rajya Sabha secretariat has set in motion the process to declare the seat of veteran Congress MP Rasheed Masood, who was convicted and sentenced to four years imprisonment in a 22 year-old graft case last month.

Vahanvati, whose opinion was sought twice within a week on the tricky subject, has made it clear that following the July 10 Supreme Court judgment, mandating immediate disqualification of MPs/MLAs convicted for offences punishable with more than two years in jail, there is no scope for any interpretation based on a hypothetical future scenario.

“The question of conviction and sentence being stayed by a higher court while hearing an appeal is not relevant at this juncture. It can be addressed separately as and when that stage arises, at the moment immediate disqualification is the law and it can’t be postponed for any reason,” the AG stated.

He has cautioned the Lok Sabha secretariat that any delay in disqualifying the convicted MPs could lead to “non-compliance of the Supreme Court judgment.” The respective House to which the concerned member belongs will notify the declaration of vacant seats.