Sending a strong message that people against whom criminal and corruption charges have been framed be not inducted as ministers, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday that Prime Minister and Chief Ministers should desist from making such appointments and act in “national interest”.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, however, stopped short of prescribing disqualification for such people from becoming ministers, leaving it to the wisdom of the PM and CMs not to recommend such names to the President and Governor.
Observing that it cannot add disqualification in article 75 (1) (appointment of PM and Council of Ministers), the bench, however, said that the PM and CMs should not consider people with criminal antecedents and against whom charges have been framed in serious offences, including corruption, for appointment as ministers.
It further said that the Constitution reposes immense trust in the PM and CMs and they are expected to act with constitutional responsibility and morality.
It said that the PM has been regarded repository of constitutional trust and he should act in national interest.
“We are saying nothing more, nothing less and it is left on the wisdom of the PM to decide,” the bench said, adding this is also applicable to CMs.
PM and CMs will be well advised not to include such people in their ministry, it said.
The bench also comprising justices Dipak Misra, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and S A Bobde passed unanimous verdict in the matter with two judges giving separate opinions.
In the 123-page verdict, Justice Dipak Mishra said it is also expected that the Prime Minster should act in the interest of the national polity of the nation-state.
“He (PM) has to bear in mind that unwarranted elements or persons who are facing charge in certain category of offences may thwart or hinder the canons of constitutional morality or principles of good governance and eventually diminish the constitutional trust”.
The bench passed the order on a PIL seeking its direction restraining the Centre and State governments from appointing people with criminal background as ministers.