The seat of a convicted legislator may not be automatically declared following their disqualification, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday, since the law allows for the conviction to be stayed through an appeal.
The government was responding to a public interest litigation filed by the Lucknow-based NGO Lok Prahari which demanded that the Election Commission should dismiss a legislator the moment they are convicted of a criminal offence.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in the Lily Thomas case that such a conviction would entail automatic disqualification. Before this order was passed, lawmakers could continue in their roles even after being convicted, pending a hearing on their appeal.
In spite of the change in law, legislators have refused to vacate their seats in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, according to Lok Prahari. Their delay in the following protocol has not only stood in the way of fresh polls but also given their parties a leeway to ask for a stay on their conviction in higher courts.
The Centre, however, cited a 2007 verdict by the apex court to oppose the petition filed by the NGO.
In that earlier case, involving a rape, as the Hindustan Times reported, a three-judge bench had held that the disqualification of a candidate under election law will not operate from the date the conviction order is put on hold under the Criminal Procedure Code by a higher court.
India's latest Parliament has the most number of politicians facing criminal charges in a decade, as a survey has recently pointed out. The accusations range from murder to kidnapping to extortion and sexual assault.
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