Transparency of principle is an enviable attribute in any institution. The Supreme Court has reportedly declared that if it has to review a judgment there would have to be a mistake in law or fact in the judgment to be reviewed. Thus it has laid bare the reason behind its refusal to review the order disqualifying convicted lawmakers. That may have disappointed the Centre, but the clarity of the principle rather weakens its stand. An amendment bill giving convicted legislators time to appeal and to continue in their positions as long as the appeal is pending has already been passed in the Rajya Sabha. The same House also passed a bill amending the order originally passed by the Patna High Court banning people in lawful police or judicial custody from contesting polls. But again, the Supreme Court, when petitioned, has found no reason to quash the high courtís order. Further, the Supreme Court has also stated that although Parliament was free to pass bills and turn them into law, the court would have to scrutinize the law whenever anyone challenged it.
The Supreme Courtís stand has exposed the secret bond among warring political parties: they are all anxious to give convicted legislators and those in custody as much rope as possible. Obviously, cleansed of the criminal element, the parties would have very few candidates to show for themselves. Yet given this disgraceful situation, it is also true that arrests on false grounds, engineered by a rival political party with law enforcers at its command (a consequence of the general corruption), would be easy enough. The Election Commission had therefore petitioned that only charges framed six months before any election be considered. The ECís argument is based on harsh realities; it would be good if principled reasoning could accommodate that too. Similarly, the immediate disqualification of a convicted legislator, although noticeably improving the moral environment of Parliament, would also mean immediate by-elections. While allowing a convicted member to continue for years as his or her appeal awaits solution in a higher court is not acceptable by any standard of ethics, fairness or responsibility to the people, a solution has to be worked out regarding the expense and arrangement of repeated by-elections. And there would be many if the law is implemented ó until the cleansing process is well advanced.