The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre why members of parliament and members of Legislative Assembly should be treated as 'special class' in having different laws where persons with criminal antecedents are allowed to continue despite their convictions.
"Why they be treated as special class? Why should there be different laws for them? Can Parliament make one law for its own members and other law for ordinary citizens?," a bench of justices A K Patnaik and Gyan Sudha Misra said, posing a query to the Centre.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation for striking down sections 8, 9 and 11-A of the Representation of the People Act on the ground they violated Articles 84, 173 and 326 of the Constitution which among other things expressly put a bar on criminals getting registered as voters or becoming MPs/MLAs.
The sections allow legislators who are convicted to continue pending their appeals/revision. They also permit such persons to be registered as voters and be candidates for elections after 6 years of conviction/release from jail.
Questioning the provisions, the bench said special laws can be allowed if they pertain to their functioning in the Parliament but they should not be allowed in other cases.
"We can understand the law which is made for them to function as a Parliamentarian but there should not be special law for other things," the bench said, asking the Centre to file its response on the issue.
Senior Advocate Fali S Nariman, appearing for petitioner Lily Thomas, submitted that 274 MPs are facing various criminal charges and the government has not done anything to check criminalisation of politics.
"That in absence of any provision in Article 326 or elsewhere in the Constitution diluting or relaxing the said disqualification by efflux of time or in any other manner, the bar based on the said disqualification is total and absolute and operates without reprieve," the petition said.