|Arvind Kejriwal addresses a news conference in Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Sept. 25: Social activist Arvind Kejriwal today declared he would move the Supreme Court if the President gives his assent to an ordinance that shields convicted lawmakers from automatic disqualification and restores the grace period to get a stay on the ruling.
“I have written to the President to give us an audience before signing the ordinance. The Supreme Court order had declared Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act as unconstitutional. How can the government pass an ordinance to bring back the same section?” the Aam Aadmi Party leader asked.
On July 10, the Supreme Court had ruled that convicted legislators cannot continue in office and that Section 8 (4) that provides them such immunity is unconstitutional. Yesterday, the cabinet cleared the ordinance to overturn the order, days before the verdict is announced in a fodder scam case involving RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
The Aam Aadmi Party alleged the Congress and the BJP were hand in glove to save “corrupt and tainted” leaders. The BJP has, however, changed its initial stance.
The rival party today termed the ordinance “unconstitutional”, possibly wary that any support to it could send a wrong a message ahead of the 2014 general election.
“BJP is shocked at this ordinance…. Who was eager to promulgate an ordinance to make frauds, cheats, rapists and murderers as our MPs and MLAs?” general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy told PTI.
Initially, the BJP had wanted Parliament to overturn the verdict like many other parties. But it changed tack when the amendment bill was taken up during the monsoon session and compelled the government to refer the bill to a standing committee.
“Union Cabinet has approved ordinance on convicted MPs. We oppose it. We request the President not to sign it,” tweeted Sushma Swaraj.
The CPM termed the ordinance “undemocratic”. Sources said the party was more against the UPA taking the “undemocratic” ordinance route than its content.
“The matter regarding the disqualification of elected members who are convicted should have been discussed in Parliament and appropriate steps taken,” a politburo statement said today.
Earlier, the CPM had opposed the top court judgment and demanded a review.
“Given the present state of the judicial system, conviction by a trial court is often set aside by a higher court on appeal. If a member is disqualified instantly and gets an acquittal later by a higher court, there will be no scope for redressal,” a politburo statement had said.
PIL in apex court
An advocate has moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the ordinance.
M.L. Sharma today contended that the ordinance was being rushed through to circumvent the top court verdict. There was no bona fide necessity to bring an ordinance before the bill is passed, he said.
He said the main purpose of the ordinance was to overcome an emergency situation, not circumvent a judicial ruling.
He claimed the government had misused the power of issuing an ordinance (Article 123) and the ordinance process, which were not permitted under the Constitution. Therefore, the impugned ordinance process must be declared illegal and unconstitutional.
Sharma cited the ruling of an apex court Constitution bench in the case of A.K. Roy v. Union of India, 1982: “The President is under the Constitution, not the repository of the legislative power of the Union, but with a view to meet extraordinary situations demanding immediate enactment of laws, provision is made in the Constitution investing the President with power to legislate by promulgating ordinances.”
He said the Constituent Assembly conferred upon the executive the power to legislate, not intending that the power should be used recklessly or by imagining a state of affairs to exist when it did not exist; nor intending that it should be used mala fide to prevent the people’s elected representatives from passing or rejecting a bill after a free and open discussion, which is of the essence of democratic process.