New Delhi: The Supreme Court will decide Tuesday if lawmakers facing criminal trial be disqualified from contesting elections at the stage of framing of charges against them.
Under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act, MPs and MLAs are currently barred from contesting polls only after their conviction in a criminal case.
A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, had reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas on August 28. The bench also comprises of Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.
The top court had indicated that it did not intend to enter into the legislative domain but voters have a right of electors to know the antecedent of a candidate.
It further observed that persons facing criminal charges would be free to contest, but they cannot do so on a party ticket under its election symbol.
Dubbing the criminalisation of politics as "rot", the Supreme Court had said it may consider directing the Election Commission to ask political parties to get their members to disclose criminal cases against them so that voters know how many "alleged crooks" are there in such parties.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said judiciary cannot venture into the lawmaking territory especially when there's already the RP Act which deals with the issue of disqualification.
Referring to the concept of presumption of innocence until a person is proven guilty, the Centre had argued that depriving a person from contesting elections on a party ticket would amount to denial of the right to vote, which also included the right to contest.
It had said that the courts will have to presume innocence in view of the fact that in 70 per cent cases, accused are being acquitted.
The petitions were filed by various parties including NGO 'Public Interest Foundation' and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, which exhorted the court to venture into the area of barring a person or a lawmaker from entering into electoral politics after framing charges against them in criminal cases.
With agency inputs