A day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from the parliament over his conviction in a defamation case, a plea has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of Section 8(3) of the Representatives of the Peoples Act (under which he was disqualified).
The petition filed by Ph.D. scholar and social activist Aabha Muralidharan highlighted that the immediate reason for approaching the Supreme Court was the disqualification of Rahul Gandhi as a member of Lok Sabha. It sought for a direction that automatic disqualification under Section 8(3) be declared as ultra vires of the Constitution of India, for being arbitrary and illegal, according to a report by Bar and Bench.
#BREAKING Plea filed in #SupremeCourtOfIndia challenges the constitutional validity of Section 8(3) of the Representatives of People's Act.— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) March 25, 2023
Plea says automatic disqualification of People‟s representatives of elected legislative bodies, after conviction is illegal pic.twitter.com/x7CyZtiU7m
The petitioner has stated that factors such as nature, gravity, role, moral turpitude and the role of the accused, ought to be examined while considering disqualification under Chapter III of the 1951 Act, the report said.
What is the law on disqualification?
Rahul Gandhi was disqualified under Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Such a disqualification is enabled by Article 102 (1) (e) of the Constitution of India, which says a lawmaker can be disqualified under any law enacted by the Parliament.
"A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years other than any offence referred to in sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release," says Section 8 (3) of Representation of People Act, 1951.
What did the petition say?
The petitioner contended that sub clause (1) of section 8 of the 1951 Act clearly categorizes the offences, keeping in view the nature of offences, for disqualification of MPs. "However, sub-clause (3) of the same section, provides for a blanket automatic disqualification, on the basis of the quantum of sentencing and imprisonment, which is self-contradictory and creates ambiguity as to the proper procedure for disqualification," the petitioner said, as per the Bar and Bench report.
It also argued that members of parliament are the "voice of the people" and that a member's representation is the right of freedom of speech and expression of millions of supporters who have elected the member in that constituency and voters who have voted for the political party. "