A BJP leader, seeking lifetime ban on convicted persons from contesting elections, on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the presence of nearly 34 per cent lawmakers with criminal background in the legislatures affected their institutional integrity.
Filed by Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay, the PIL also sought setting up of special courts for trying lawmakers accused of criminal offences.
The bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Navin Sinha was told the law permitting convicted politicians to return to electoral arena after undergoing their sentence, coupled with six years of further disqualification, hit the sanctity of the electoral system.
“A person who is a confirmed criminal should be eliminated from the electoral politics,” senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for petitioner Upadhyay, told the court.
Dwivedi urged the court to strike down the part of the Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, that disqualifies the convicted people from contesting elections for six years after their release from jail.
The bench was told that the said provision under challenge also hit the principle of the institutional integrity of the popularly elected bodies and directly or indirectly distorted the electoral process.
The apex court by its March 3, 2011, verdict setting aside the appointment of the then Chief Vigilance Commissioner P.J. Thomas as non est (does not exist) had said that though personal integrity was not irrelevant but institutional integrity was the touch stone of public interest.
The Supreme Court, in the CVC Thomas case, had said: “…We should not be misunderstood to mean that personal integrity is not relevant. It certainly has a co-relationship with institutional integrity.”
Referring to the clout of convicted head of the Dera Sacha Sauda, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Dwivedi said that if he decides to contest election who would be able to stand against him? “He may even become a minister.”
He also appreciated the two women who complained against the Dera chie and the judge who heard the case and pronounced the judgment for withstanding the pressure that might have been brought to bear on them.