Congress member of the Rajya Sabha Rashid Masood on Monday became the first MP to lose his seat after the Supreme Court struck down a provision in the electoral law that protected a convicted lawmaker from disqualification on the ground of pendency of appeal in higher courts.
A notification issued by Secretary-General Shumsher K. Sheriff said that “ … consequent upon his conviction on September 19, 2013, followed by an award of sentence of four years’ rigorous imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 10,000/- … (sentences to run concurrently) Mr. Rasheed Masood stands disqualified for being a Member of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) from the date of his conviction, i.e. the 19th day of September, for the period of his sentence and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release in terms of the existing Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) read with subclause (e) of clause (1) of the Article 102 of the Constitution.”
Mr. Masood, 66, was held guilty by a Special CBI judge under various Sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Penal Code for fraudulently nominating undeserving candidates to MBBS seats allocated to Tripura in medical colleges from the Central pool. He was then Health Minister in the V.P. Singh government between 1990 and 1991.
Mr. Masood’s is the first disqualification after the apex court struck down subsection 4 of the Representation of the People Act under which incumbent legislators could avoid disqualification during the pendency of their appeal against conviction in a higher court. The appeal had to be made within three months of the conviction.
Seeking to negate the Supreme Court verdict, the government had introduced a Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament to protect convicted lawmakers, which could not be passed. The Union Cabinet then cleared an ordinance along the lines of the Bill and sent it to the President for promulgation. The ordinance was trashed by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who said it should be “torn” and “thrown out.” The government then withdrew the ordinance.
Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha Secretariat is likely to issue a notification disqualifying convicted Lok Sabha members — RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav (elected from Chapra) and JD(U)’s Jagadish Sharma (Jahanabad), both in Bihar — with effect from September 30, when they were convicted by a Special CBI court in Ranchi.
However, the two Lok Sabha seats are unlikely to be filled as the general election is due in May 2014.