Live Mint
New Delhi
The United Progressive Alliance’s decision to promulgate an ordinance to undo a Supreme Court order that disqualifies convicted Parliamentarians and state legislators is rapidly turning into a political hot potato for the Congress party-led ruling coalition.
With the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had earlier backed the move, turning against it and the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) proposing a public interest litigation (PIL) to thwart the government, the Congress and its allies risk being politically isolated.
The Union cabinet signed off on the ordinance on Tuesday at a time when the Congress and BJP are readying for an electoral face-off in five states, including politically crucial Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and the smaller states of Chhattisgarh and Mizoram, leading up to next year’s general election. The move is unlikely to endear the government to the electorate, especially urban voters, analysts have said.
BJP termed the ordinance an attempt to ensure “cheats, frauds, murderers” stay on in legislatures after being convicted and the Left called it “undemocratic”. Senior BJP politician Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, in a message on Twitter urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to sign the ordinance.
The President has the choice of endorsing the ordinance, delaying the process or returning it to the government for a review.
The cabinet’s decision came after the Supreme Court on 5 September turned down a government appeal to review the 10 July verdict barring convicted lawmakers from continuing in Parliament or state legislatures.
The ordinance protects convicted members of Parliament and members of legislative assemblies from immediate disqualification if their appeal against conviction is admitted by a higher court within three months.
Activists and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal are considering approaching the courts on the issue.
“The passing of this ordinance is not only a severe blow to democracy, but also exposes the intentions of the political class which has stooped to a new low to protect the corrupt,” AAP said in a statement.
According to data available with the Association for Democratic Reforms, a think tank, there are 161 MPs in the Lok Sabha who have a tainted track record, and 78 of them have serious charges against them. In the Delhi assembly, there are around 32 MLAs with criminal cases against them.
Sandeep Shastri, pro-vice chancellor of Jain University and director of Centre for Research in Social Science and Education in Bangalore, said the government “has convicted” itself by clearing the ordinance.
“When you are the one expected to set the standard, the government’s attempt to defend the criminal elements will do more damage to its already dented image. It shows the level of morality,” Shastri said, adding that by opposing the ordinance BJP was trying to gain political mileage.
Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari took on Swaraj and the BJP, saying the constitutionality of legal enactments should be decided by the courts and not by the opposition party.
He said on Twitter that Swaraj’s request to the President not to the sign the ordinance was “amusing, surprising”.
The Congress justified the ordinance.
“The government was called upon to intervene to rectify the mess created by judgement and the anomalous situation it would have created at a time when five states are going for election. The order, in fact, denies natural justice to a person who is convicted by a lower court,” said Congress spokesman P.C. Chacko. “Being political opportunists as ever, the BJP now backtracked.”
© Association for Democratic Reforms
Privacy And Terms Of Use
Donation Payment Method