New Delhi, March 25
A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the "automatic disqualification" of lawmakers upon their conviction and being sentenced to a jail term for two years or more according to section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act.
The plea, filed by a Kerala-based social activist, said the immediate reason for approaching the apex court was a recent development related to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's disqualification as a member of Parliament from the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency, after he was convicted by a court in Gujarat's Surat in a 2019 criminal defamation case.
The petitioner, Aabha Muralidharan, has sought a declaration that the automatic disqualification under Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, is ultra vires the Constitution for being "arbitrary" and "illegal".
The petition has claimed that an automatic disqualification of people's representatives of elected legislative bodies restrains them from "freely discharging their duties cast upon them by the voters of their respective constituencies, which is against the principles of democracy".
"The present scenario provides a blanket disqualification, irrespective of the nature, gravity and seriousness of the offences, allegedly against the concerned member, and provides for an 'automatic' disqualification, which is against the principles of natural justice since various convictions are reversed at the appellate stage and under such circumstances, the valuable time of a member, who is discharging his duties towards the public at large, shall be rendered futile," the plea, filed through advocate Deepak Prakash, said.
Regarding Gandhi's disqualification, the plea said the conviction had been challenged, but in light of the operations of the present disqualification rules under the 1951 Act, the stage of appeal, the nature of the offences, the gravity of the offences and the impact of the same over society and the country are not being considered, and in a blanket manner, an automatic disqualification has been ordered.
It said members of Parliament are the voice of people and they uphold the right to freedom of speech and expression of millions of their supporters who have elected them.
"All that the petitioner and the petition wish to establish is that the right under Article 19(1)(a) enjoyed by a member of Parliament is an extension of the voice of millions of his supporters," it said.
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