Democracies around the globe are witnessing a new bottom. A major part of the reason is the increased criminalisation of politics. Ever since the trend of “Bahubali politics” started in society, the inflow of criminals into politics has witnessed a boom. To curtail the criminals from joining politics, the Supreme Court gave a historic judgment in the case of Lily Thomas v. Union of India in 2013. A case that destroyed the career of tainted politicians.
The three wings of the government have taken various necessary steps to ensure politics remains a service and does not become a breeding ground for criminals. However, the most prominent move came in the form of the landmark Lily Thomas Judgment, which came in 2013 as a countermeasure against tainted politicians.
Lily Thomas v. UOI (2013):
Lily Thomas was one of the country’s first female advocates. She is famous for filing many public litigation cases in the Supreme Court and several other courts with the intent to seek improvement and changes in existing laws against the criminalisation of politics.
In this case, Lily Thomas challenged sub-section 4 of Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. According to the aforementioned law, if any Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislative Assembly is found guilty of a crime and convicted by a court, even then that member could not be disqualified for three months.
Further, he would be immune from disqualification for 3 months, and he can still contest the election, or if that member is already elected, he can complete his tenure. Also, if that member files an appeal during these three months, then his disqualification will not take place until the final decision of that appeal is decided.
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The Hon’ble Supreme Court said that the challenged provision, i.e., Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act 1951, inherently defeated the purpose of Section 8(1), (2), and (3) of the said Act. That is to say, whenever any member had a conviction, he used to file an appeal against that conviction. And by the time the decision on that appeal comes, the term of this member will have been completed.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court referred to Article 101(3)(a) and Article 190(3)(a) of the Constitution. Article 101 provides that if a Member of Parliament is disqualified on any of the grounds provided in Article 102, then his seat shall, thereupon, becomes vacant. Similarly, Article 190 says that if a MLA or MLC is disqualified on any of the grounds provided in Article 191 of the Constitution of India, then his seat shall thereupon become vacant.
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Taking recourse to this, the Supreme Court observed that if the grounds laid down in Article 102 are to be applied, then the additional disqualifications laid down under Article 102 will apply even more than those laid down in Section 8, which means that the 3 months’ time given in Section 8(4) or the time till the decision of the appeal is no longer available.
Section 8(4) of the RPA 1951, is violative of Article 101 and Article 190 and therefore, ultra vires to the Constitution. The judgement has been instrumental in ensuring criminals are escorted out of the political landscape and a better political ecosystem can be developed.
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Indian political system
India is a democratic country in which citizens have the right to elect their representatives. The elected members run the nation through the Parliament and Legislative Assembly. On the contrary, the criminalisation of politics was a major setback to the intent with which the country’s founding fathers adopted democracy.
Owing to the criminalisation of politics, the elected representatives who were bestowed with the responsibility of building the nation were rather using the mechanism for their own material gain, that resulted in rampant corruption, red-tapism, and other malice in society.
However, the aforementioned judgement significantly ensured that proper checks and balances are imposed on tainted politicians who aspire to profess in politics.
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