The Supreme Court sought to know the rate of conviction of politicians in criminal cases and asked whether its direction to complete trial against them within a year was being effectively implemented.
The apex court said that data about the conviction rate of politicians in criminal cases would open up a “new dimension” and sought to know whether it would act as a “deterrent” if the trial against lawmakers is completed in a year.
“We would also like to know what is the rate of conviction. That will throw open a new dimension. We will see that criminal cases against politicians, if it does not end in conviction, then why? What are the reasons for it,” a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha said.
The top court made these observations while hearing petitions seeking to declare the provisions of the Representation of People (RP) Act, which bar convicted politician from contesting elections for six years after serving jail term, as ultra-vires to the Constitution.
During the hearing, the bench asked the lawyer appearing for one of the intervenors about the data of cases pending against lawmakers in trial courts and high courts across the country and also whether there was stay on any of them.
The lawyer told the court that it was an important aspect and he would file an affidavit giving details of the data available on the national judicial data grid as well as with the Election Commission of India (EC).
“We do not think it would be easy for you to collect data from the EC as cases are pending in the trial courts and different high courts,” the bench said, adding, “we can see your anxiety for purity in elections”.
“If the trial (against politicians) is over in one year, do you think it would be a deterrent,” the bench asked.
Referring to a data, the counsel claimed that an estimated 34 per cent of parliamentarians had criminal record.
The bench observed that a direction was earlier passed by the top court that trial against politicians should be completed within a year and wanted to know how effectively was that order being implemented.
The court also asked what would happen to a judge when charges were framed against him or an FIR lodged.
To this, the counsel said “the court has laid down such a high and rigorous standards for judges. If this is the position in case of judges, why can’t the same be there in case of politicians”.
The lawyer argued that if a lawmaker was convicted by a court of law, he should be permanently barred from politics.
The arguments remained inconclusive and would continue tomorrow.
Advocate Ashwini Kumar Updhyay has filed a PIL in the matter, while several others have come to the apex court as interveners.
The apex court had on July 12 pulled up the ECI for not taking a clear stand on a plea seeking barring of convicted politicians for life.
The Centre, in its affidavit, had said the prayer sought by the petitioner seeking life-time bar on convicted lawmakers was not maintainable and the plea should be dismissed.
The petition has also sought a direction to the Centre and the EC to fix minimum educational qualification and a maximum age limit for persons contesting polls.