A Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Tuesday said that MPs and MLAs cannot be disqualified from contesting election before conviction. The top court left it to the parliament to frame relevant laws but expressed concern at the criminalisation of politics.
It, however, stated that every candidate should fill up forms with criminal cases in bold letters. Every political party must be informed about pending criminal cases and the party’s website should have these details. Even the antecedents of the candidates have to be disclosed in public domain.
The top court has also ruled that lawyers-turned-lawmakers can continue practising law as they are not ‘full-time’ salaried employees.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled on two important issues—whether candidates with criminal charges can contest elections and whether legislators can practise as advocates.
The decision on ‘tainted netas’ was delivered on a plea by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay who challenged the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which bars convicted politicians from contesting elections for six years after having served the jail term. In 2017 SC had directed that special fast track courts be set up to try more than 1,581 cases pending against legislators.
The plea had also sought a direction to the Centre and the Election Commission to fix minimum educational qualifications and maximum age limit for candidates. Currently, a chargesheet does not debar a person from contesting elections and cases usually take years to be decided.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that the Bar Council of India Rules do not prohibit legislators from practising as lawyers.