New Delhi: The government will likely appeal against a landmark Supreme Court order that struck down the legal provision which protects a lawmaker from disqualification even after conviction in a criminal case, sources said. The government feels the latest ruling will lead to a political witch-hunting, sources added.
"Have to see the order on disqualification and decide what to do next. It also says three months reprieve. We can work and discuss this," Law and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said.
The apex court ruled on Wednesday 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.
This 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 will not get 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.
But the political class, just like the verdict on bringing parties under the RTI, could close ranks and try to negate the ruling while the BJP said that such verdicts need to be studied before making any comment.
"If you are convicted, you cannot contest elections. However, if you are a sitting MP or MLA, and if your appeal is accepted, then you can retain the position. A lot of questions have been raised on the verdict. Many also termed it discriminatory. The party will comment on this later after studying the court verdict," said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi called the ruling a "landmark judgement". "The impact will be great in cleaning up the political system," he said.