The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the central government to file its response to two PILs contending that a provision of India's electoral law was unconstitutional.
A bench of justice AK Patnaik and justice Gyan Sudha Misra asked the government to respond to the contention that sub-section (4) of section 8 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 violated Article 14 guaranteeing equality before the law and Article 102 that gives grounds for the disqualification of member of parliament.
The sub-section permits elected members of parliament and state assemblies to continue to function as such even after conviction for criminal offences.
The apex court is hearing two PILs - one by advocate Lily Thomas and the other by NGO Lok Prahari - contending that under the law, a person convicted of certain offences was barred from contesting election whereas an elected member of parliament or state legislature continues to function as the member even after conviction merely because he had filed an appeal against the conviction.
Lok Prahari has contended that Section 8(4) was the root cause of the presence of politicians with criminal background in the parliament and state legislatures. It says that whatever safeguards that were provided in Section 8(1), Section 8(2) and Section 8(3) of the act are obliterated by Sections 8(4) in the case of elected representatives.
It has contended as to how could there be two situations where a person convicted of certain offence and sentence is barred from contesting election while an elected representative convicted of same offence and sentence gets away merely because an appeal had been filed against the conviction and sentence.
The court's direction to the central government to file its response to the two PILs came after it was found that it had not so far filed its reply.
The court gave four weeks to file the response and directed the listing of the matter on Feb 12, 2013.