Makes it clear to Centre it has to be done by legislation

“Ensure criminals do not enter legislative bodies,” the Supreme Court told the Union government, but made it clear that “it has to be done by legislation.”

A Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and Madan B. Lokur made this observation on Monday while hearing a petition filed by Public Interest Foundation and others seeking a direction to debar charge sheeted persons from contesting elections.

Justice Lodha told Additional Solicitor-General Paras Kuhad the ultimate object was to bring purity in elections.

Senior counsel Dinesh Diwedi, appearing for the petitioner, alleged that the Centre had not filed its reply in two years, unlike the Election Commission (EC). He submitted that politicians were ganging up and they would not implement such a provision in the law.

Mr. Kuhad said the Centre was considering the EC’s recommendations and its anxiety was that such a provision would be misused. He took exception to the insinuation that politicians were ganging up. To castigate the whole Parliament was to be regretted. Parliament, in its wisdom, would consider the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report that had rejected the recommendations of the EC and the Law Commission to bar those against whom charges were framed from contesting elections.

Justice Lodha told Mr. Kuhad, “You have to ensure that the provision is not misused. You need to have a balanced approach. There are multiple reasons for abuse. But you can’t reject the proposals. The Centre will have to take a definite stand. We can identify the category of persons and the nature of offences like rape, murder, rape and murder and other heinous crimes and offences involving moral turpitude.”

EC counsel Meenakshi Arora said the Commission, as early as in 1997, wrote to then Prime Minister recommending that once charges were framed in a case, disqualification was attracted as at that stage there was application of judicial mind to the charges.

When Justice Lodha asked counsel whether the court could give a direction to the government to legislate on a particular field, Mr. Diwedi said, “Where legislation will not come under any circumstances, this court can ask the Executive to consider passing legislation.”

The EC, in its response, said those against whom charges were framed; those against whom any Commission of Inquiry had given a finding of guilt of the charges should be barred from contesting elections; these cases should be decided by trial courts within six months; to prevent misuse only those cases pending six months prior to the declaration of elections would be considered for such disqualification.

The Bench, while recording the EC’s response, expressed its displeasure that the Centre had not yet filed its reply despite several opportunities given to it. However, the Bench gave the Centre six weeks to spell out its stand and posted the case for hearing thereafter.

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