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Disqualify all guilty lawmakers, says NGO

New Delhi, Dec. 2: A petitioner whose public interest plea led to the July 10 verdict that automatically disqualified convicted legislators has approached the Supreme Court with a fresh application, saying the landmark ruling should apply with retrospective effect.

NGO Lok Prahari said the ruling should be “modified” to cover lawmakers who had been convicted before the July verdict but were still continuing in their posts by filing appeals.

A bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Madan B. Lokur fixed the matter for hearing on December 16.

The NGO was one of the petitioners whose PIL led to the verdict on July 10, when the top court ruled that convicted MPs, MLAs or members of legislative councils stood automatically disqualified once they are convicted of a criminal offence.

A bench of Justices Patnaik and S.J. Mukhopadhaya had set aside Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which gave convicted lawmakers a three-month window to appeal against their convictions.

RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav and Congress MP Rashid Masood, who were convicted in corruption cases after July 10, were disqualified on the basis of the ruling that also disqualified convicted lawmakers from contesting elections for six years.

The apex court, however, clarified that the ruling would not have any effect on lawmakers convicted before July 10 and whose appeals were pending in various courts. The bench said “sitting” lawmakers who had already been convicted and had filed appeals “should not, in our considered opinion, be affected by the declaration now made by us in this judgment”.

In its fresh application, the NGO said the judgment should cover all convicted legislators, saying it is “expedient in the interest of justice that the order dated July 10 be modified”.

“Exemption to already convicted sitting members is not in accordance with articles of the Constitution which provide that the disqualification shall be effective instantly,” the petition said, adding: “It is also not in consonance with the intention of the framers of the Constitution.”