5 May 2023 4:49 AM GMT
The Supreme Court refused to entertain a petition seeking to challenge the legality of Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Section 8(3) states that any person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified as a Member of Parliament or a Member of a Legislative Assembly. The plea was filed by Aabha Muralidharan,...
The Supreme Court refused to entertain a petition seeking to challenge the legality of Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Section 8(3) states that any person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified as a Member of Parliament or a Member of a Legislative Assembly. The plea was filed by Aabha Muralidharan, an activist from Wayanad constituency of Rahul Gandhi, who was recently disqualified as an MP after being convicted for defamation. The matter was heard by a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala.
At the very outset, the bench noted that the petitioner had no locus in the matter. CJI DY Chandrachud said–
"How are you affected? When you are disqualified due to conviction then come here. Not now. Either withdraw or we will dismiss it. We will only hear the aggrieved person".
The petitioner's lawyer then pointed out that it was in a PIL filed by Advocate Lily Thomas that the Supreme Court had struck down Section 8(4) - which allowed convicted legislators to continue their membership during the pendency of appeal. However, the submission did not appeal to the bench, following which the petitioner chose to withdraw.
Accordingly, the petition was dismissed as withdrawn.
The petition was filed through Advocate Deepak Prakash and drawn by Advocate Sriram Parakkat. As per the petition, Section 8(3) is in stark contradiction to sub-section (1) of the Section 8, Section 8A, 9, 9A, 10 and 10A and 11 of the 1951 Act.
“The present scenario provides a blanket disqualification, irrespective of the nature, gravity and seriousness of the offences, allegedly against the concerned member, and provides for an ‘automatic’ disqualification, which is against the principles of natural justice since various convictions are reversed at the appellate stage and under such circumstances, the valuable time of a member, who is discharging his duties towards the public at large, shall be rendered futile,” the plea said.
Further, the plea added that in light of the operations of the present disqualification rules under the 1951 Act, the stage of appeal, the nature of the offences, the gravity of the offences and the impact of the same over the society and the country were not being considered, and in a blanket manner, an automatic disqualification had been ordered against Rahul Gandhi.
It also noted–
“All that the petitioner and the petition wish to establish is that the right under Article 19(1)(a) enjoyed by a member of Parliament is an extension of the voice of millions of his supporters.”
The plea sought a declaration that there is no automatic disqualification under Section 8(3) of the 1951 Act and in cases of automatic disqualification under the provision, the same be declared ultra vires the Constitution. It also sought a declaration that the mandate under Section 499 of the IPC or any other offence prescribing a maximum punishment of two years in jail will not automatically disqualify any incumbent member of a legislative body since it “violates the freedom of speech and expression of an elected common man’s representative”.
Case Title: Aabha Muralidharan v. UoI And Ors. WP(C) No. 481/2023 PIL
Click Here To Here Order