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SC limit for lawmaker trials

New Delhi, March 10: The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to respond to the law commission’s recommendation to disqualify for five years candidates against whom charges have been framed a year before the election.

At present, only convicted candidates are disqualified from contesting polls for six years from the date of disqualification.

At the same time, the top court directed trial courts to complete trials of sitting MPs/MLAs within a year of framing of charges. This was a recommendation in the 244th report of the law commission.

This is likely to stop the practice of MPs/MLAs enjoying legislative powers and privileges for almost the whole of their tenure as criminal trials take a considerably long time.

The order was passed on a petition by an NGO, Public Interest Foundation, seeking the court’s direction for speedy trials in cases involving lawmakers.

A bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and Kurien Joseph also sought the Centre’s response on the panel’s recommendation that any candidate who files a false affidavit should be awarded a two-year term under Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act.

The panel has suggested that filing of a false affidavit should also be a ground for disqualifying a candidate under corrupt electoral practices.

On December 16 last year, the apex court had asked the law commission for its views on disqualifying elected representatives filing false affidavits, and also those against whom charges have been framed in criminal offences.

It had framed two questions for the panel’s consideration:

“Whether disqualification should be followed upon conviction as it exists today or upon framing of charges by the court; or upon filing of a report by the investigating officer under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) (charge sheet);

“Whether filing of a false affidavit under Section 125A of the RPA, 1951, should be a ground for disqualification. If so, what should be the mode or mechanism for adjudication of the affidavit. The LCI would also consider the consultation report submitted by the EC in this regard.”

The panel had subsequently submitted its report to the court.