In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday has struck down a section of Representation of the People Act that allows a convicted lawmaker to remain in office while there are still cases pending against them.
"The only question is about the vires of section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) and we hold that it is ultra vires and that the disqualification takes place from the date of conviction," a bench of justices A K Patnaik and S J Mukhopadhaya said.
In effect, what the Supreme Court order says is that the disqualification of an MP or MLA will come into effect immediately after the representative is convicted by any court.
The SC order also says that the representative cannot contest elections again and a representative cannot cast his vote from jail, under any circumstances.
However, the court said this order will not have a retrospective effect so that those who have filed appeals in cases pending against them will not be affected.
Earlier, the Centre defended an exception carved out to protect convicted MPs and MLAs from disqualification on the ground that their removal would destabilise governments surviving on a "razor edge thin majority".
The provision of RPA says that a lawmaker cannot be disqualified in the event of his conviction in a criminal case if he or she files an appeal in the higher court.
The top court's verdict came on the petitions filed by Lily Thomas and NGO Lok Prahari through its secretary SN Shukla who had sought striking down of various provisions of RPA on the ground that they violate certain constitutional provisions which, among other things, expressly put a bar on criminals getting registered as voters or becoming MPs or MLAs.
The PILs had said that certain sections of RPA allow convicted lawmakers to continue in office while their appeals are pending and thus those provisions are "discriminatory and encourage criminalisation of politics".
Today's order is likely to have large repercussions among almost all political parties in the country.
With PTI inputs