New Delhi: Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday that the Centre would write to all states to expedite cases against MPs and MLAs where charges attract disqualification.
Prasad, while talking to the media said that the priority of the BJP-led government was to clean politics. "It is a priority commitment of the Narendra Modi government that polity needs to be cleansed. Those against whom criminal cases are pending, that trial needs to be expedited. If they are clean, they will be acquitted. If they are not, law will take its own course," he said, as per PTI.
"The government is going to follow up the direction of the Supreme Court in a substantial way whereby the Home Minister shall be writing to all chief ministers of the states and I will be writing to all law ministers of the states to ensure mandatory compliance of this provision," Prasad added.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Prasad and top Home and Law Ministry officials besides Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
Prasad said cases against MPs and MLAs which attract disqualification under Section 8(1), 8(2) and 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act needed to be completed within one year of framing charges according to a March 10 direction of the Supreme Court.
Any sentence which attracts punishment of two years and above can lead to disqualification from Parliament or state legislature.
Prime Minister Modi had on July 24 asked the Home Minister and Law Minister to work out a mechanism to settle criminal and other court cases against politicians within a year.
The directive is in line with Modi's commitment during his election campaign that he will endeavour to see that court cases against politicians are decided within one year. If they are guilty, they should be punished, if not they should be discharged, he had said.
Meanwhile, in an important ruling, the Supreme Court had last week rejected a petition calling for removal of tainted Cabinet ministers, saying the PM should take a call on this.
However, the apex court had said that it was upto the wisdom of the PM and CMs not to recommend such names to the President and Governor.
The five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha and comprising justices Dipak Misra, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and SA Bobde had also said that the PM was the repository of constitutional trust and had hoped he would not induct unwarranted elements in his ministry in national interest.
"Thus, while interpreting Article 75(1)(appointment of PM and Ministers), definitely a disqualification cannot be added. However, it can always be legitimately expected, regard being had to the role of a Minister in the Council of Ministers and keeping in view the sanctity of oath he takes, the PM, while living up to the trust reposed in him, would consider not choosing a person with criminal antecedents against whom charges have been framed for heinous or serious criminal offences or charges of corruption to become a Minister," it said.
In its 123-page judgement, the court said that it cannot pass any direction on disqualification as "it would tantamount to crossing the boundaries of judicial review".
In the last hearing the government had contended that only Parliament can decide what would constitute as being a criminal past of the ministers.
According to elections affidavits, thirty percent of ministers in the Narendra Modi government have declared criminal cases against themselves and 18 percent have declared "serious criminal cases".
On July 10, 2013 the SC had ruled that an MP or MLA would be immediately disqualified if convicted by a court in a criminal offence with a jail sentence of two years or more. The Supreme Court had struck down Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which protects convicted legislators from disqualification if they appeal before a higher court within three months.
And in In its March 10 directive, the Supreme Court had set a deadline for lower courts to complete trial in cases involving lawmakers within a year of framing of charges.
The apex court had also said that trial courts will have to give explanation to the chief justice of the respective high court if the trial is not completed within a year.
It said all such proceedings involving lawmakers must be conducted on a day-to-day basis in order to expedite the trial.
As the trial is kept pending for years, lawmakers continue to enjoy membership of the legislative body despite being charged in a heinous offence, the court noted.
The court passed the order on a PIL filed by NGO Public Interest Foundation seeking its direction for expeditious trial in cases involving lawmakers.
The NGO contended that MPs and MLAs continue to be members of Parliament and assemblies for a long time due to delay in proceedings.
With Agency inputs