New Delhi, June 4: The Supreme Court today questioned the “unconstitutional” practice of electing Rajya Sabha members from states they do not belong to and stayed elections to the Upper House.
If the court pursues this line of questioning to its conclusion, it could raise the possibility of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being disqualified as an MP.
The court issued notices to the Election Commission asking why such members should not be disqualified. The poll panel has to submit its response by June 14. A vacation bench of Justices Ruma Pal and B.. Agarwal directed the commission not to issue a notification for the biennial polls slated for June 23.
The order followed a petition by columnist Kuldip Nayar, who recently retired as a nominated member of the Upper House. Nayar today pleaded before the court that a letter he had written objecting to the practice indulged in by nearly all political parties be treated as a public interest litigation.
Notices were issued on April 28, asking the Centre, states, Union territories and the attorney-general why such Rajya Sabha members should not be disqualified.
But Nayar contended that there was no point in the court hearing the case after the vacation in the first week of July as the elections to fill up 75 vacancies in the 250-member Upper House would have taken placed by then. The argument led to the court staying the elections.
In its interim stay order, the apex court said the poll panel’s notification “shall not be published and if it had already been published it shall not be given effect to”.
The court gave the commission liberty to seek modification or vacation of the order on the next date of hearing, June 14.
The Prime Minister (home state Punjab) tops the list of Rajya Sabha members elected from states they do not belong to. He was elected from Assam. BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu, who is from Andhra Pradesh, was elected from Karnataka.
Nayar had penned a newspaper article titled “Bringing down the Rajya Sabha”. Along with it, he had written a letter to the chief justice of India pleading him to treat it as a PIL. He said political parties were violating the Constitution that stipulates persons be elected to the Rajya Sabha from the state they belong to.
He challenged the 2003 amendment to the Representation of People’s Act that dispensed with the requirement of domicile for candidates contesting for Rajya Sabha membership.
The Upper House was created with members to represent the interests of their states. Why such a House is at all needed is a question many have asked since Lok Sabha members, elected by the people, command greater legitimacy as representatives.
But, even without going into that debate, the purpose of having the Upper House is defeated if its members are elected from states they do not belong to.