Justifying the ordinance passed by the union cabinet reversing the Supreme Court judgment mandating the immediate disqualification of lawmakers convicted for a criminal offence punishable with a jail term of more than two years, union law minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday claimed that his government had not protected lawmakers and only did what the Supreme Court asked it to do.
"We not only remained consistent with the concept of disqualification given by the Supreme Court, but have also gone beyond the apex court's order. Nobody has read the ordinance and tried to understand it," said Sibal, who was here to address the District Bar Association.
He said, "There was section 8(4) of Representation of People's Act, which says if an elected member files an appeal within three months, then the disqualification will not operate. The apex court struck it down earlier this year, saying if under section 8(1), 8(2) and 8(3) of the same act, a person stands disqualified, how can there be a provision like section 8(4) which protects him from disqualification. So section 8(4) is unconstitutional."
Sibal said, "The Supreme Court had said that if an elected member after his conviction for more than two years appeals to the court and gets his conviction stayed, then the disqualification does not operate."
He said, "While hearing an election petition, the Supreme Court passed an order that till your appeal is being heard, law will not allow you to vote in the house. But you can participate in the proceedings of the house, maintaining that you will not draw your salaries or allowance."
Sibal said, "Now what I did was that I just incorporated that order of the apex court on the election petition in section 8(4) with a caveat. The Supreme Court judgment said if you get a stay on conviction, then your disqualification will not operate. But the ordinance says if you get a stay on conviction or stay on sentence, you will still be disqualified. In fact, the ordinance is doing much more than what the apex court says on the issue."
"So we have accepted the concept of disqualification and passed section 8(4) in consistence with what the apex court says and what the order of the Supreme Court is. A person, in any case, cannot fight an election anymore if he is convicted for two years," said Sibal.
Calling Opposition leader in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj a "political animal", Sibal said, "Sushma Swaraj agreed on the ordinance in the all-party meeting. Now, she is calling it unconstitutional. The BJP normally takes a U-turn on every issue. Only the Supreme Court can decide if it is unconstitutional or not. I don't know if the BJP is doing it for political compulsions," said Sibal.
When asked if the ordinance would not affect the people's perception about the government, Sibal said, "We have not protected lawmakers as the media is claiming. We have done what the Supreme Court has asked us to do. People will understand."
The union law minister said the media was misinforming people on the ordinance issue. He appealed to the media to make people understand about the ordinance.