Legislators can't pick up government contracts: SC

New Delhi, April 14: The Supreme Court has ruled that an MLA or MP who enters into a business contract with the government stands automatically disqualified, upholding the disqualification of BJP legislator Bajrang Bahadur Singh who won the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections from Pharenda constituency.

The apex court rejected Singh's argument that the disqualification would arise only if a contractor having a subsisting contract contests an election, not when a legislator enters into a contract.

"The purpose of Section 9A, as repeatedly held by this court, is to maintain the purity of the legislature and to avoid conflict of personal interest and duty of the legislators. It would be a strange logic that persons with a subsisting contract with the government are perceived to be undesirable to become members of the legislature as there is a likelihood of conflict between their duty as legislators, if elected, and their personal interest as contractors; but legislators can enter into contracts with the government with impunity," a bench of Justices J. Chelameshwar and R.K. Agrawal said in a recent judgment.

The court upheld an appeal filed by the Election Commission against an Allahabad High Court ruling staying the disqualification order passed by the governor on January 29, 2015.

Governor Ram Naik had disqualified Singh under Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, because he had entered into four contracts with the Akhilesh Yadav government in 2013.

Section 9A says that a "person shall be disqualified if, and for so long as, there subsists a contract entered into by him in the course of his trade or business with the appropriate government for the supply of goods to, or for the execution of any works undertaken by, that government".

Writing the judgment, Justice Chelameshwar said: "Any interpretation of Section 9A which goes to assist a legislator who directly enters into a contractual relationship with the State for deriving monetary benefits (in some cases of enormous proportions) should be avoided and be given a construction which as far as possible eliminates the possibility of creating such situation where the duty is certainly bound to conflict with personal interest."

The apex court also passed a direction that henceforth MLAs disqualified by the governor shall file petitions in the high courts within eight weeks and the same shall be disposed of by the high court concerned within another eight weeks.

At present, there is neither any law that prescribes a limitation period for filing of petitions by an aggrieved legislator nor a time frame within which the case has to be disposed of.

"Until such law is made, we deem it appropriate to hold that any person aggrieved by a decision of the governor under Article 192 must approach the high court by initiating appropriate proceedings (if he is so desirous) within a period of eight weeks from the date of the decision of the governor.

"Such proceedings must be heard by a bench of at least two judges and be disposed of within a period of eight weeks from the date of initiation without fail. The chief justice of the concerned high court will make an appropriate arrangement in this regard," the bench said, pointing out that this would still leave the Election Commission eight weeks of the six months within which a vacant seat must be filled.



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