No poll disqualification if charges framed: SC

No poll disqualification if charges framed: SC

Apex court says move would endanger democratic polity

No poll disqualification if charges framed: SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday disagreed with a plea for disqualifying a person from contesting elections on framing of charges against him in a criminal case, saying it may cause “great danger to democratic polity of the country”.

“Merely because charges have been framed, should we say the person should not contest elections. Shall we not be depriving the person from his valuable right to paricipate in electoral process? That’s why legislature said that one can be debarred only when one stage of conviction and sentence has come,” a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice H L Dattu said.

The court’s obsevation came while hearing a petition filed by NGO PIL Foundation and former chief election commissioner J M Lyngdoh and others.

“We always say that unless a person is convicted after following due process of law, we should assume that he is innocent,” the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and Arum Mishra, said.

“There would be great danger to the democratic polity of the country,” the bench said.
It further asked: “What if the HC quashed the case under 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, will that person not lose his right to paricipate in electoral process.”

Senior advocate Dinesh Dwivedi, appearing for the petitioner, contended that though there was no statutory mechanism to debar a candidate only at the stage of framing of charges, a via media has to be worked by the court.

He pointed out a similar suggestion has been made by the Law Commission of India and the Election Commission.

The bench, however, did not concur with the plea. “What you are saying we can't lay down. We are not framers of law,” Justice Mishra said, speaking on behalf of the bench.

The court also pointed out laying down any such procedure would tantamount to re-writing provision of the Representation of People Act.

Dwivedi, on his part, contended that since at the stage of framing of charges, a trial court applied its mind on the allegations made by a person, he or she should not be allowed to contest elections.

The court said that the kind of political rivalaries being seen in the country, it can be expected that opponents may file cases against each other just to debar the person from contesting elections.

It said if the principle of application of mind by the trial court was to be taken into consideration, then it could also be applied when cognisance was taken on filing of chargesheet, which would in turn lead to disastrous consequences.

In the same PIL, a separate bench had on March 10, last year directed for completion of trials in cases involving sitting MPs and MLAs within a year of framing of charges.

A sitting MP or MLA stands disqualified as soon as he or she is held guilty of the offences specified under the Representation of People Act.

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