The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine a plea for quashing of certain provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act, which provided scope for persons with criminal antecedents to contest elections despite their convictions.
"It is a very important issue. We would like to examine it," a bench of justices Altamas Kabir and J Chelemeshwar told senior counsel Fali Nariman, who appeared for petitioner Lily Thomas, an advocate.
The apex court had earlier issued notice to the Attorney General on the petition, filed originally in 2005.
The petitioner has sought striking down sections 8, 9 and 11-A of the RPA, 1951 saying they were violative of articles 84, 173 and 326 of the Constitution as they expressly put a bar on criminals getting registered as voters or become MPs/MLAs.
Sections 8, 9 and 11-A of the RPA allows convicts to continue as legislators pending their appeals/revision. It also permits such persons to be registered as voters and be candidates for elections after 6 years of conviction/release from jail.
"That in the 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.
The plea urged the apex court to declare that Parliament under Article 326 is authorised to cite circumstances like civil disobedience movements and political stirs entailing violations of law as not attracting disqualifications.
The petitioner cited the case of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Sibu Soren as being arrayed in criminal cases when he launched the movement for a separate state culminating in formation of Jharkhand from the then undivided Bihar.
In other words those engaged in such civil disobedience movement cannot be barred from contesting, the plea explained. The apex court posted the matter for further hearing on October 10.