On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a plea praying that election of persons charge-sheeted for an offense punishable with imprisonment of five years or more should be declared null and void.
The three-judge bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao while refusing to pass an order, however, agreed with the petitioner’s cause. Nonetheless, the court stated that the prayer was beyond the reach of the judicial domain and fell within the ambit of the legislature since it required an amendment to the Representation of People Act, 1951 (RP Act).
“These are legislative issues, within the exclusive domain of Parliament, we do not want to pass any order on these issues,” observed the bench.
The petition was filed by NGO, Lok Prahari. The NGO’s General Secretary SN Shukla who appeared and argued on behalf of the NGO, submitted on Monday that in view of inaction by the Central government for the last 23 years, the only way out was for the Supreme Court to exercise its jurisdiction under Article 142 to prevent corruption in electoral politics. Therefore, the plea sought a time-bound and meaningful implementation of the unanimous resolution passed by the parliament in 1997 mandating that political life and process be free of criminalization.
Further, Shukla submitted that such a law would never be passed by Parliament. Criminals were getting into the legislatures and they had already crossed the 33% mark. The plea contended that according to a report by Association for Democratic Reforms, 43 % MPs in the current Lok Sabha face criminal cases and the percentage of members with serious cases has doubled from 14% to 29% in the last 10 years.
“SC, under Article 142 should declare that since Rule of Law and free and fair elections are basic features of our Constitution, pending enactment of the law in terms of the directions /recommendations in the judgment of the Constitution Bench in WP (C) No.536/2011, the election of a person charge sheeted by the Court a year ago for an offense punishable with imprisonment of five years or more, as Members of Parliament or State Legislature, thereby enabling them to subvert Rule of Law, shall be liable to be declared null and void u/s 100 (1) (a) (b) & (d) (iv) RP act,1951,” read the petition.
Nonetheless, the top court disposed of the petition while citing that “We are afraid the relief claimed in this plea cannot be granted by this court. However, we leave it open to the petitioner to pursue any remedy available to have the directions issued by this court implemented.”