SC to examine issue of tainted ministers
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SC to examine issue of tainted ministers

Apex court will examine whether people with criminal backgrounds can be appointed as ministers in the central or state governments.

india Updated: Mar 24, 2006 21:48 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

A constitution bench of the Supreme Court will examine whether people with criminal backgrounds or those charged in criminal cases can be appointed as ministers in the central or state governments.

A bench comprising Chief Justice YK Sabharwal and judge CK Thakker on Friday referred the matter to a five-judge constitution bench while acting on a public interest petition filed by a man named Manoj Narulla who had challenged the induction of certain "tainted persons" in the central council of ministers.

The bench based its decision on the fact that important issues of public importance - including good governance, moral turpitude, purity of the system and public perception -- were involved in the litigation.

The court said: "Having regard to the magnitude of the problem besides its vital importance, it is proper that the writ petition be heard by a constitution bench."

It said broadly the point involved was the "legality or otherwise" of a person with a criminal background or a person charged with offences involving moral turpitude being inducted as a minister in the central or state governments.

The court also sought responses in the matter from the central government, the attorney general and advocate generals of all states.

They were asked to respond in four weeks.

Since the court felt individuals need not be made respondents in the matter, it ordered the deletion of the names of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and central ministers Lalu Prasad, Mohammed Taslimuddin and MAA Fatimi from the litigation.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, who is amicus curiae in the case, said the issue is important since the induction as a minister of a person with criminal background as was not good for democracy.

Citing instances when ministers had resigned on charges being framed against them in criminal cases, Dwivedi said now even after the framing of such charges, people were made ministers.

Solicitor General GE Vahanvati, appearing for the central government, agreed that it was a matter of great public importance.

Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian, who appeared on behalf of the attorney general, said the question of maintainability of the petition should be considered.

He said the concept of presumption of innocence before guilt was proven by a court of law had to be considered.

However, the apex court said in this case it was a question of a person not having the right to be a minister.

The matter should be considered in the context of good governance and public perception, both internally and internationally.

It asked Subramaniam: "Would you appoint a person against whom a charge of offence is pending as a judge or election commissioner? We have to see it as per the spirit of the constitution."

First Published: Mar 24, 2006 21:48 IST