The five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is set to deliver its verdict on the plea for disqualifying candidates against whom criminal charges have been framed from contesting elections, on Tuesday, i.e. 25 September.
The judgment will be delivered on a writ petition filed by the NGO, Public Interest Foundation by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice RF Nariman, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra.
In its petition filed in 2011, the NGO had essentially sought guidelines or framework to deal with the menace of criminalization of politics, and had demanded that those charged with serious offences be debarred from contesting elections.
The matter was initially referred to a three judge bench, which was expected to examine: Whether disqualification for membership can be laid down by the Court beyond Article 102(a) to (d) and the law made by Parliament under Article 120(e)?
The Centre had then placed reliance on a constitutional bench judgment in Manoj Narula v. Union of India and had asserted that this judgment conclusively answers the question referred to the three-judge bench. The Court had however opined that the judgment did not conclusively answer the question referred to it, and had then referred the issue to a Constitution Bench.
The five-judge Bench had then commenced hearing the petition on August 9. On the final day of the hearing on August 28, the Bench had posed tough questions on the feasibility of the proposition.
For instance, Justice Nariman had noted, “The Attorney General has argued that going back from conviction to the stage of charges is not acceptable as the presumption of innocence attaches throughout…if there is a recognized political party, the only symbol a candidate of the party can use is the one assigned to the party…the moment we declare that a person charged with a heinous offence cannot stand in the election on that symbol, it is tantamount to creating a new offence from the backdoor that once the candidate is charged, he is disqualified…”
Having highlighted several such issues, the court had reserved its judgment.