After Samajwadi Party (SP) leader and 10-time MLA from Rampur Sadar Azam Khan was recently disqualified as a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly within 24 hours of his conviction by an MP-MLA court in a 2019 hate speech case, the spotlight is back on legislators facing serious charges, including those holding top posts even after conviction.
Interestingly, in a disqualification episode which happened in 2021, it took roughly two weeks for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly to issue the notification stating that the membership of then BJP MLA from Gosaiganj, Indra Pratap, alias Khabbu Tiwari, had ceased to exist after his conviction for five years in a 28-year-old fake marksheet case.
Opposition leaders alleged that the prompt action against Mr. Khan reeked of “vendetta” politics as legislators facing much more serious charges continue to occupy public offices.
“The speed at which Azam Khan was disqualified as an MLA after being sentenced by a lower court reeks of vendetta politics. Legislators with much more serious charges continue to occupy public offices and are free,” said Danish Ali, Lok Sabha member from the BSP.
A few Months ago Rakesh Sachan, a Cabinet Minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, was sentenced to one-year imprisonment in a 31-year-old Arms Act case after which the Opposition demanded his sacking from the Council of Ministers but Mr. Sachan is still continuing.
During the hearing, it was also alleged that Mr. Sachan fled with the copy of the court order. The ruling BJP argued then that Mr. Sachan had been granted bail and as per rules, there was no need for his resignation.
Section 8(1) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RPA) calls for disqualification “from the date of such conviction” of anyone sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more and a bar of six years for contesting elections after serving term in prison.
Uttar Pradesh is among the top three States where legislators and Ministers faces criminal charges.
A recent report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a New Delhi based-organisation working in the area of political reforms, pointed out that roughly half of the total 403 legislators elected to the 18th Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha had criminal cases registered against them.
The ADR report also highlighted that at least a dozen Ministers in the Uttar Pradesh government faced serious criminal charges such as murder, kidnapping, rape and crimes against women. Even Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, Minister for Industrial development Nand Gopal Gupta ‘Nandi’, Higher Education Minister Yogendra Upadhyaya and Transport minister Dayashankar Singh have criminal cases lodged against them.