July 12, 2013
The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement on the two judgments delivered by the Supreme Court:
The judgment of a two-member bench of the Supreme Court has decreed that a person who is in jail or in police custody cannot contest elections to legislative bodies. This is a drastic judgment which will infringe on the democratic rights of citizens. A person who is an undertrial prisoner who is not convicted of any offence or a person who is in police custody without having faced a trial and conviction will be deprived of the right to contest elections.
There are a number of false cases which are foisted on political activists. Further, there are lakhs of undertrial prisoners languishing in jail unjustly deprived of their basic liberties given the inefficiency and bias of the legal-judicial system. This judgment can lead to largescale misuse. Ruling parties and governments can get people behind bars in order to prevent them from contesting elections. The judgment is a case of judicial overreach and requires to be overturned.
An earlier judgment by the same bench of the Supreme Court calls for the immediate disqualification of an MP or MLA on being convicted of an offence which attracts disqualification. It has struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act that allows a convicted member to continue membership for a three month period for filing an appeal to the higher court and to get a stay on the conviction and the sentence.
The intention of the judgment to remove persons convicted in serious criminal and corruption cases is good and laudable. However, the verdict that section 8(4) of the Act is ultra vires of the Constitution, poses certain problems. Given the present state of the judicial system, conviction by a trial court is often set aside by a higher court on appeal. If a member is disqualified instantly and gets an acquittal later by a higher court, there will be no scope for redressal. It is necessary to look into this aspect and other issues raised by the judgment. Therefore, the judgment needs to be clarified by a review.