Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why I support the bill/ordinance to undo SC judgment on disqualifying convicted legislators

Being a Libertarian is hard! I find myself isolated in supporting both the bill and the ordinance to undo the SC judgement on disqualifying convicted legislators.

1. Parliament should not give in to populism and unseat a convicted legislator without giving him/her a chance of one appeal. We can ensure that the appeals in case of convicted legislators are heard and decided within a month. Automatic and time bound appeals are common in many countries. The bill's provision that a convicted legislator cannot vote or draw salary while appeal is pending, is a reasonable measure.

2. An amendment to Representation of People's act has been in place since 1989 which was undone by SC. The SC has every right to interpret the constitution to say that there can be no discrimination between a sitting legislator and ordinary citizen. However SC judgement that a convicted legislator should be unseated before the appeal is decided is a violation of first principles and a case of legislating from the bench. Parliament has every right to pass a law to undo the judgement on disqualification. I don't think even a constitutional amendment is needed as some people suggest.

3. And just because its Laloo Yadav, doesn't mean that there is no need to pass an ordinance to prevent a later constitutional crisis. The crisis being a disqualified legislator getting acquitted on appeal and by then a new legislator getting elected and both fighting it out in the court. The parliament has a right, and in my opinion a duty, to pass a bill undoing the SC judgement (on disqualification, not contesting). 
While that parliament is asking citizens their opinion via a standing committee, why should some legislators be singled out to lose their seats because of potential erroneous convictions? Scores of other convicts are continuing to be legislators, one is infact a minister in Gujarat because of non-retrospective nature of the measures. Bringing the ordinance was a right thing to do.

4. Anyway in the hurry to be populist, we seem to be losing an opportunity to clean up politics. Making appeals automatic and time bound in the case of convicted legislators will infact lead to them actually serving their sentence. Current long appeal process, ensures convicted legislators stay away from jail or worse enables a change in government to sabotage the case with pliant public prosecutors.