Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Supreme Court Studies Disparity in Convictions: Politicians vs. Government Employees

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Recently, the Supreme Court has been examining the disparity in convictions for politicians and government employees. This debate has put the spotlight on the eligibility of convicted politicians to participate in elections. The Supreme Court’s decision to delve into this issue before the 2024 General Elections is bound to create waves in the political arena of Bharat.

The question revolves around the fact that government employees who face similar convictions are removed from their job and unable to apply for a government post. However, the politicians in a similar position face a 6-year ban only. The legal system is gearing up to address this incongruity in conviction. This is an important step for ensuring a fair and uniform approach towards all convicts irrespective of their affiliation with politics.

Legal Imbalance and Discrimination

Vijay Hansaria ,Sr Advocate, Live Law
PC Live Law

Vijay Hansaria is an amicus curiae with the Supreme Court. This means that he assists the court by providing information or advice regarding law or facts. He was currently assisting the court in accelerating trials for current and former Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs). Thus, Mr. Hansaria was in a position to draw the attention of the court to a significant discrepancy in the legal system. The Supreme Court’s attention was drawn to the disparity in outcomes faced by politicians and government employees upon conviction. The differential treatment is particularly stark for crimes involving moral turpitude.

The observations by Vijay Hansaria points to the ‘Waterloo of the Legal System’ that favors politicians over government employees. Government employees are promptly dismissed from their positions under the applicable service rules when convicted of offenses involving moral turpitude. The rule is the same for all classes of employees, from a Class IV sweeper to a Class I Manager, under the All-India Services Act, 1951.

Preferential Treatment to Politicians vs. Government Employees

Hansaria’s observation points to the preferential treatment meted out by the law to convicted politicians. While government employees risk immediate dismissal, convicted politicians encounter a milder sentence. They only face disqualification from contesting elections for a mere 6-year period. Thus, the issues raise legitimate concerns about fairness and consistency within the legal system.

Moreover, the uneven and preferential treatment lacks logic and uniformity. The statutory authorities, like the Central Vigilance Commission and the National Human Rights Commission, categorically prohibit individuals convicted of offenses involving moral turpitude from becoming members or chairpersons.

However, there are no such limitations for lawmakers who have been convicted. Therefore, there is an inconsistency in the approach toward convicted politicians in the legal system.

What is the aim of the Debate?

Manifestly arbitrary': SC amicus curiae seeks life ban on convicted netas | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
PC Hindustan Times

The ongoing debate underscores that uniformity and fairness in the legal framework are part of its fundamental principles. While the Supreme Court investigates the validity of Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, it becomes evident that the incongruity between politicians and government employees facing convictions needs to be addressed from a balanced perspective.

The unbiased view of this issue encourages a transparent and consistent approach of the legal system for all individuals. The law should be equal for all citizens of India, regardless of their position. Moreover, all convicts must face comparable, if not equal, consequences for their actions. 

How does it affect the 2024 General Elections?

The debate over the term of disqualification effects the eligibility of convicted politicians to contest elections ahead of the 2024 general election. This is a critical issue for Bharat’s political bigwigs. While India’s legal system is trying to ensure the ‘equality for all’ principle of the constitution, the result may change the political landscape of India. The Supreme Court is scrutinizing the legal provisions governing this matter. However, any changes to ensure fairness within the legal framework may cause a disqualification of prominent politicians.

The Case of Politician Sidhu
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The 2019 Lok Sabha has 539 MPs. A total of 233 MPs have criminal cases against them. Mostly, Politicians Navjot Singh Sidhu and Asaduddin Owaisi will bear the brunt of any decisions made by the Supreme Court in favor of a permanent disqualification. Sidhu spent 10 months in jail for the death of a 65-year-old man due to an altercation in 1988. He was released from jail in April 2023. If the law extends the period of disqualification, Sidhu’s political career will end.

The Case of Politician Owaisi
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Asaduddin Owaisi faces charges of moral turpitude in cases filed against him in 2012 and 2015. The leader is charged with inciting anti-Hindu violence and propagating hate-speech. The politician has not been convicted, but he may face a heavy loss if the courts find him guilty in any of these cases. Moreover, if the disqualification time period is extended, then Mr. Owaisi will have to bid his political career ‘goodbye’ if he faces a conviction in the court of law.

Thus, the small observation of an amicus curiae can have a ripple effect in India’s political arena. The upcoming elections make this observation of ‘disparity in convictions’ a weapon that can clean up the murky political waters of Bharat. However, will the Supreme Court really make any changes in the terms of disqualification? Will Bharat’s political landscape get a facelift? Only time will tell.  

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