Height of hypocrisy: UPA’s Ordinance to save criminal politicians

To negate the Supreme Court’s verdict, UPA is set to bring an ordinance for saving its tainted politicians. A draft of the proposed ordinance has been prepared by the Law Ministry and could be taken up in Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

It seems that the Congress’ troubles are unending. A few weeks back, the Supreme Court had given a verdict which paved way for disqualification of convicted MPs. The apex court had declared ultra vires Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, thus paving way for the immediate disqualification of convicted MPs, MLAs and MLCs.

To negate the court verdict, UPA introduced a bill in the parliament which it was unable to get passed because of consistent demand from opposition to send it to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Congress Rajya Sabha MP Rasheed Masood faces the threat of disqualification in view of his conviction under the Prevention of Corruption Act and other IPC sections by the Special CBI court. Even RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav faces the threat of disqualification if proved guilty in the fodder scam case on September 30.

In his legal opinion on the matter, Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati had told the government that only a Constitutional amendment would undo the effect of the SC judgment.

“Dealing with the legal problem which has been posed (regarding Constitutionality of Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 as decided by the SC) I am of the view that if the Parliament is to effectively and comprehensively deal with the issue, it could only be done by a Constitutional amendment, and not by statutory amendments to the RP Act, 1951,” Vahanvati said in his opinion.

In order to do away with the matter quickly, the central government has decided to come up with an ordinance. A draft of the proposed ordinance has been prepared by the Law Ministry and could be taken up in Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. In fact, the Law department is examining whether the ordinance could be issued with retrospective effect from July 10, the day when the apex court delivered the judgment

Since the CBI court has only announced the conviction and will deliver the quantum of sentence to Masood only on October 1, the UPA government has got ample of time to get the ordinance cleared.

The Bill introduced in the parliament, states: “…A disqualification under any of the said sub-sections shall not, in the case of a person who on the date of the conviction is a member of Parliament or the legislature of a state, take effect, if an appeal or application for revision is filed in respect of the conviction and sentence within a period of 90 days from the date of conviction and such conviction or sentence is stayed by the court.”

In the Bill, a proviso has been added to sub-section (4) of section 8 of the Representation of People Act which makes it clear that convicted member shall continue to take part in proceedings of Parliament or Legislature of a State but he or she shall neither be entitled to vote nor draw salary and allowances till the appeal or revision is finally decided by the court.

The ordinance will ensure the same.

According to Article 103, “the question whether a sitting member of the House has become subject to disqualification shall be referred to the President whose decision shall be final. Before giving his decision, the President will obtain the opinion of the Election Commission (EC) and act on that opinion.”

Also, there is no automatic and instant disqualification, according to the bill, “It has to wait for the President’s decision.”

In his address to the rally at Jaipur, Rahul Gandhi in his speech had said that the government will not spare any criminals and that they willnot let criminals contest election. He had also come up with a five page application form to select the candidate for a constituency which demanded to disclose any criminal case pending on the applicant.

With the government pushing the ordinance, it all looks like a sham. Maybe, Congress is unable to think beyond politics for now.

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