New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Tuesday cleared an ordinance which allows convicted amd jailed MPs and MLAs to contest elections. The ordinance is a reversal of the Supreme Court judgement that had not only disqualified lawmakers convicted of offences with 2 years or more in jail but also also barred from contesting elections.
The ordinance will allow convicted legislators to continue in office, if the appeal against the conviction is admitted by a higher court within 90 days.
The ordinance says that if a lawmaker appeals his conviction or the sentence is stayed by a higher court, he can attend Parliament/ state Assemblies but cannot draw salaries or vote.
The Bill tabled in the Rajya Sabha that allows convicted legislators to continue in office has been referred to the standing committee.
In a landmark ruling the Supreme Court had on July 10, 2013 struck down the legal provision that protects a lawmaker from disqualification even after conviction in a criminal case. The Supreme Court ruled that MPs or MLAs shall stand disqualified from holding the membership of the house from the date of conviction in a trial court.
The court held Section 8(4) of the Representation of the Peoples Act as ultra vires. The section allows a convicted lawmaker to remain in office till the pendency of appeal. The ruling could see several lawmakers in both Parliament and state assemblies lose their seats.
But lawmakers who have already filed appeals against their conviction before the pronouncement of Wednesday's verdict would not be affected.
As many as 31 per cent Members of Parliament (MPs), legislators (MLAs/MLCs) have criminal cases pending against them in police record, according to study done by the National Election Watch and Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).
According to a report out of the 4,835 MPs and MLAs in the country, 1,448 are facing criminal cases. Out of 543 Lok Sabha MPs, 162 have criminal cases pending against them with 75 facing serious criminal charges. Out of these 1448 members who have declared criminal cases, 641 have declared serious criminal cases like rape, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, robbery, extortion etc.
Six MPs/MLAs/MLCs have declared rape charges in their affidavits.