It will infringe on the democratic rights of citizens
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has described as “a case of judicial overreach” the judgment of a two-member Bench of the Supreme Court that a person who is in jail or in police custody cannot contest elections to legislative bodies.
“This is a drastic judgment which will infringe on the democratic rights of citizens. A person who is an undertrial prisoner who is not convicted of any offence or a person who is in police custody without having faced a trial and conviction will be deprived of the right to contest elections,” a CPI (M) Polit Bureau statement said here on Friday.
“There are a number of false cases which are foisted on political activists. Further, there are lakhs of undertrials languishing in jail unjustly deprived of their basic liberties given the inefficiency and bias of the legal-judicial system. This judgment can lead to large scale misuse. Ruling parties and governments can get people behind bars in order to prevent them from contesting elections,” it said.
An earlier judgment by the same Bench of the Supreme Court ordered immediate disqualification of an MP or MLA on being convicted of an offence which attracts disqualification. It struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act that allows a convicted member to continue membership for a three month period for filing an appeal to the higher court and to get a stay on the conviction and the sentence.
Seeking a review of the earlier judgment, the party said the intention of the ruling to remove persons convicted in serious criminal and corruption cases was good and laudable. However, the verdict that section 8(4) of the Act was ultra vires of the Constitution, posed certain problems. Given the present state of the judicial system, conviction by a trial court was often set aside by a higher court on appeal. If a member was disqualified instantly and got an acquittal later by a higher court, there would be no scope for redressal. It was necessary to look into this aspect and other issues raised by the ruling, it added.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India has welcomed the ruling that disqualified people’s representative who have been convicted by a court for 2 years or more.
This well-intentioned move would help to cleanse the Parliament and State Assemblies from convicted criminals who manage to prolong their membership during pendency of appeals in higher court.
“However, it has been noted that there are also cases where some people are punished under criminal proceedings, for participating in agitations on people’s issues, and the conviction may exceed two years,” a CPI statement said.