Politicians facing charges whether to contest elections — SC to pronounce verdict today

Supreme Court: A 5-Judge Constitution Bench  comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ. is likely to pronounce judgment on the petition filed by Public Interest Foundation (a non-governmental organization) seeking disqualification of politicians, including Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of legislative assemblies (MLAs) from contesting elections, once charges are framed against them.

The Court had earlier, on August 28, reserved the judgment in the matter. The Court had indicated that voters have a right to know the antecedents of candidates and the Election Commission could be asked to direct political parties to ensure that persons, facing criminal charges, do not contest on their tickets using their poll symbols.

The Court started hearing of the matter on August 9. The issues for consideration before the Court were:

  • Whether the court can lay down additional disqualifications beyond Article 102(e) and Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951?
  • Whether the disqualification should be triggered upon conviction as it exists presently or upon framing of charges by the court?
  • Whether filing of false affidavits under Section 125-A of the RP Act should be a ground of disqualification?

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had stated that the Parliament has made a distinction between an accused and a convict and there has been a provision for disqualification in the RP Act upon conviction of a lawmaker. The Centre, deriving strength in its argument from the principle that every man is innocent until proven guilty, had also contended that such course would create a  pre-condition that would adversely affect the right of the candidates to participate in polls; the judiciary should not venture into this legislative arena.

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