Congress Rajya Sabha member Rasheed Masood, who was sentenced to four years in jail in a corruption case by a Special CBI court here on Tuesday, cannot contest any election to Parliament or the State legislature for 10 years if the government fails to legalise Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which was declared ultra vires by the Supreme Court. This Section provides the convicted legislators (in certain cases) with immunity from disqualification, if they have appealed against their conviction within 90 days of the ruling.
Mr. Masood’s fate hangs in the balance. Informed sources said that if the government failed to promulgate the ordinance, he would be immediately disqualified from Parliament. A mere conviction under the Prevention of Corruption Act — as in the case of Mr. Masood — was quite enough.
He can’t contest polls for six years from the date of completion of his prison term. In case of remission of sentence, he may come out earlier, and the six-year ban will apply thereafter. There will be no relief for him even if the appeal court grants him bail or stays the sentence.
Sources pointed to the rejection of the nomination of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa when she wanted to contest from four constituencies in the 2001 Assembly elections because she was then convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act. (Later, she was acquitted by an appeal court.)
Section 8 (3) of the RP Act was invoked for her disqualification from elections. This is despite her lawyer’s argument before the returning officers that her conviction had been stayed by the Madras High Court and she had been granted bail.
Sources in the Election Commission said the RP Act makes it clear that mere conviction under the PC Act is enough to make a person ineligible to contest polls. So, the question of bail or stay on sentence would not apply. Unless the convicted persons got the judgment stayed, there would be no relief for them.