If convicted, they will have to resign immediately
The Supreme Court verdict striking down the provision in the Representation of the People Act granting time for elected representatives to go in appeal if convicted in a criminal case will give the jitters to 67 MLAs facing criminal cases. Forty of them are of the United Democratic Front and 27 of the Left Democratic Front.
The affidavits they had filed along with the nomination papers for the Assembly elections include details of the cases pending against them.
Election Watch Kerala and the Association for Democratic Reforms, which jointly scrutinised the affidavits, have reported that criminal cases of rather a serious nature are pending against Labour Minister Shibu Baby John and nine MLAs — five of the Congress and four of the Opposition.
An attempt-to-murder case filed under Section 307 of Indian Penal Code against T.V. Rajesh (CPI-M) is perhaps the most grievous. He faces four more criminal cases.
Most other elected representatives have been charged under sections 324 (causing hurt by dangerous weapons), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) and such others for taking part in agitations and public protests.
Mr. Shibu Baby John faces two cases. The Congress MLAs Hibi Eden and Anwar Sadath face 15 cases each. I.C. Balakrishnan of the Congress faces seven, C. Divakaran of the CPI four and P.C. Vishnunath of the Congress two.
The elected representatives will essentially have to take part in agitations, and almost all leaders will get involved in such cases. As many as 21 CPI(M), 23 Congress, five CPI and Kerala Congress(M) and eight IUML MLAs whose affidavits have been subjected to scrutiny have cases pending against them.
There are complaints that Section 308 is being widely foisted by the police on political leaders who take part in agitations. This is being cited as one of the major reasons for the relative large number of pending cases against MLAs. This, along with the prompt reporting of even minor cases, is cited as one of the reasons for the State figuring prominently in the crime records prepared from time to time.
The chances of getting convicted in such cases are said to be remote. But some political observers are of the view that the Supreme Court ruling may impede political leaders and others from going on agitations over serious public issues.