The Hindu
New Delhi

“It’s worrying all parties are one on protecting convicted lawmakers”

A day after the Union Cabinet decided to bring in an ordinance to protect convicted legislators from disqualification, the Aam Aadmi Party said it would request the President not to ratify it; otherwise, the party would challenge it in the Supreme Court.

“People are shocked at what the UPA government is doing. We have requested President Pranab Mukherjee to give us a hearing before he signs the ordinance.” AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal told a press conference here on Wednesday.

“Without amending the Constitution, how can you bring back as an ordinance the provision in the Representation of the People Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court? Convicted legislators will now sit in Parliament and Assemblies and participate in lawmaking that will further their own interests.”

Questioning the hurry with which the Centre decided on the ordinance, Mr. Kejriwal said what was “more worrying” was that all parties had such tainted leaders and were “one” on the issue. “The Congress claims that it had consulted the BJP before passing the ordinance. If it is so, the BJP is trying to mislead the people by pretending that it is opposed to the ordinance. Let the party say it will not field any tainted candidate.”

Lawyer and AAP member Prashant Bhushan said the Constitution does not allow Parliament to make one law for ordinary citizens and another for MPs and MLAs. “Deferring disqualification of convicted legislators by three months is unconstitutional. Ordinances are brought only in emergencies. In this case, the Bill [that allowed convicted legislators to continue in office] has been referred to the Standing Committee. If there was no rush when Parliament was in session, why is this haste now?”Activist Sanjay Singh quoted a study conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms, which listed legislators with criminal cases in almost all parties. “This ordinance is only to give relief to Rasheed Masood [of the Congress] and Lalu Prasad [of the Rashtriya Janata Dal] who face jail terms,” he said.

“At a time when people are looking forward to ridding Parliament of people with criminal antecedents, the ordinance has come as another nail in the coffin of the UPA,” said the former Law Minister, Shanti Bhushan.

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