The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to revisit its order that disqualifies with immediate effect a lawmaker sentenced to two years and more in jail for a criminal offence.
The dismissal of its review plea may be a cause of concern for the government which — backed by all major parties — is planning changes to the election law to soften the top court blow.
There was, however, some relief for the government. The court agreed to review its other judgment that bars persons in custody — convicted or not — from contesting elections.
Delivered on July 10, the twin judgments evoked sharp reactions from all major parties which unanimously decided to bring in amendments to negate the effect of the verdicts.
“Your legislature has created the confusion. You had clumsily drafted the law and now you are trying to clarify. We only interpreted the provisions in the law,” the court said after questioning the Centre’s counsel extensively on the Representation of the People (RP) Act.
Parliament had decided to amend the law as it found the court’s interpretation to be correct, a special bench of justice AK Patnaik and justice Mukhopadhaya said, pointing to government’s move to amend the act.
The Rajya Sabha has already passed an amendment to the act to reverse the ruling that said a person who ceases to be an “elector” would be disqualified from fighting elections.
The law doesn’t permit a person to vote when in custody. The proposed amendment, which is yet to be taken up by the Lok Sabha, says a person doesn’t cease to be a voter if his/her name is in the voter list but cannot vote for some reasons.
The court said its judgment on disqualification of convicted lawmakers was thought through and wouldn’t be reviewed. It means that a convicted MP/MLA will lose the membership of Parliament/assembly even if he or she challenges the conviction, a move seen as a step towards decriminalising politics.
A Jharkhand court is expected to deliver a verdict in a fodder scam case against Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad in the coming days. He stands to lose his Lok Sabha seat, if found guilty.
Last week, an amendment that allows convicted lawmakers to keep their seats till their appeals are finally decided but without the right to vote and salary was introduced in the Rajya Sabha.