The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Centre to file its response to a public interest litigation petition challenging the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1951 which allow convicted persons to contest elections to Parliament and the State Legislatures six years after release from jail.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Gyan Sudha Misra directed that further hearing be listed for February 12.

Amicus curiae Fali Nariman contended that Article 326, which barred citizens from being registered as voters on grounds of criminal antecedents, equally prohibited such people from becoming MPs and MLAs. However, Sections 8 and 9 of the RP Act allowed convicted persons to contest polls on various grounds. An anomalous situation existed under the Act, where one provision debarred a person from contesting elections for six years on conviction in a criminal case with two-year imprisonment, while the other allowed MPs and MLAs to continue if they filed an appeal within three months of conviction, he said.

In her petition filed in 2005, Lily Thomas gave 15 instances of corrupt practices which would be a disqualification for membership under Article 326 though they did not involve prosecution. She said the real problem lay in use of unlimited mafia funds in elections. The criminal mafia should be prevented from hijacking elections, the legislatures and the administration.

The petitioner sought striking down of Sections 8, 9 and 11-A of the Act, saying they were violative of Articles 84, 173 and 326 as they expressly put a bar on criminals getting registered as voters or becoming MPs/MLAs.

The Bench also sought the Centre’s response on another petition filed by Lok Prahari through Mr. Shukla seeking similar relief.

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