The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to constitute a Constitution Bench and hear petitions against tainted persons contesting elections.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar was hearing a petition filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking immediate hearing of the petitions ahead of assembly elections to five states.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Upadhyay, submitted that the dates for Assembly election to five states had been announced and many dreaded criminals, against whom charges were framed by the competent court in serious cases, were planning to contest the election.
He also submitted that if a five-judge bench is not constituted and the instant matter is not heard on priority, the nation will suffer irreparable loss and injury, hence, the matter was urgent.
“We must clarify this matter so that people know the law by next election, so we will soon constitute a Constitution bench to decide these issues,” said the Bench.
Reference to Constitution Bench
In March 2016, a three-judge bench in Public Interest Foundation. v. Union of India referred the question ‘whether a legislator facing criminal trial should be disqualified at the very stage of framing of charges against him by the trial court?’ to the consideration of the Constitution Bench. Upadhyay’s petition was tagged with the above matter.
244th Report of Law Commission of India
The Supreme Court in its order, dated 16th December, 2013, directed the Law Commission to consider the following issues:
(1) Whether disqualification should be triggered upon conviction as it exists today or upon framing of charges by the court or upon the presentation of the report by the Investigating Officer under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and,
(2) Whether filing of false affidavits under Section 125A of the Representation of People Act, 1951, should be a ground of disqualification? And, if yes, what mode and mechanism needs to be provided for adjudication on the veracity of the affidavit?
The Law Commission of India in its 244th report titled ‘Electoral Disqualifications’ answered the questions as follows:
After considering the report, the court directed that ‘in relation to sitting MPs and MLAs who have charges framed against them for the offences which are specified in Section 8(1), 8(2) and 8(3) of the RP Act, the trial shall be concluded as speedily and expeditiously as may be possible and in no case later than one year from the date of the framing of charge(s). In such cases, as far as possible, the trial shall be conducted on a day-to-day basis’.
Read the petition here.
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