Freedom of expression: Law on automatic disqualification of MPs/MLAs on conviction challenged in SC

New Delhi: Following Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as an MP, a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of the provisions of “absolute and automatic” disqualification of legislators on conviction and sentence, irrespective of the nature, severity and gravity of the offence. has been challenged. Crime.

Advocate Deepak Prakash filed the petition on behalf of Abha Muraleedharan, a social activist from Malappuram, seeking a direction that no automatic disqualification exists under Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

The petition cited Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as an MP on Friday by the Lok Sabha secretariat and two-year sentence by a Surat court on March 23 for his alleged remark ‘Why all thieves have Modi surname’ at a rally was given. in Kolar in 2019.

The petition prayed that the automatic disqualification under Section 8(3) be declared arbitrary, illegal and ultra vires of the Constitution for violating the fundamental right to equality.

It also argued that IPC section 499 (defamation) or any other offense prescribing a maximum punishment of two years would not automatically disqualify any sitting member of any legislative body as it is the speech and expression of an elected representative. violates the freedom of

Factors like nature, seriousness, role, moral turpitude and role of the accused have to be examined while considering disqualification under Chapter III of the 1951 Act in the petition.

“The grounds for disqualification should be specific with the nature of the offenses specified under the Code of Criminal Procedure and not in a broad manner, as presently applicable under section 8(3) of the RP Act,” it said.

It further opposed the interpretation provided by the Supreme Court in the Lily Thomas case (2013) that the effect of postponing the provisions of disqualification under Chapter III of the 1951 Act requires re-examination, in a vis-a-vis offences. The classification schedule and seriousness of the offences, which may be petty, serious or heinous in nature.

The petitioner has sought a direction that criminal defamation should be excluded from the purview of the judgment in Lily Thomas case, otherwise, the right to representation of the citizens would be adversely affected.

“The right under Article 19 1(a) (freedom of speech and expression) enjoyed by a Member of Parliament is an extension of the voice of millions of his supporters. If the offense under Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC, which is only technically punishable by two years The maximum sentence is not detracted from the cascading effect of the Lily Thomas judgment, it will have a chilling effect on citizens’ right to representation,” it said.