Jay Panda welcomes SC verdict on disqualification of lawmakers

Bhubaneswar: BJD MP Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda has hailed the judgment of the Supreme Court which struck down the law that protects MPs and MLAs convicted in criminal cases from disqualification.

The legal provision that currently shields MPs and MLAs is Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act, 1951. This provision allows legislators to retain their seat in the House even when convicted, if they file an appeal or an application for revision within three months from the date of conviction.

Earlier this year, Panda had submitted a Private Members’ Bill to remove this very section of the Representation of People Act. He believes that this provision has increased criminalisation of politics by granting protection to convicted legislators.

Panda has been saying that Section 8(4) defies the ideas of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Indian Constitution (Right to Equality before Law). While the Representation of People Act debars candidates convicted of serious offences from contesting elections for six years after their release from prison, section 8(4) of the same Act makes an exception for sitting legislators. This grants an unfair advantage by allowing convicted legislators to contest elections, while at the same time, denying the right to those who are convicted but do not hold office.

However, he believes that more needs to be done by the political class to restore the faith of the general public in the systems. The political class should demonstrate its commitment to decriminilasation by creating fast track courts to deal with criminal cases against all elected representatives.

Of the 543 MPs elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009, 76 had been charged with serious criminal charges such as murder, rape and dacoity.