AA Edit | Give MPs, MLAs a fair chance
There are constitutional and legal provisions to disqualify an elected member.
The reinstatement of NCP leader P.P. Mohammad Faizal, who was disqualified from the Lok Sabha in January following his conviction in a criminal case with a 10-year jail term, as the member of the Lower House, and the refusal of the Election Commission of India to order a by-election in Wayanad despite Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who had represented it in the Lok Sabha, being disqualified, point to two things — one, the need for State agencies to be circumspect while dealing with the membership of a person from an elected body, and two, granting such members the time to exhaust legal remedies before being disqualified.
Mr Faizal had to move the Supreme Court and wait till March-end to get his membership restored though the high court had stayed his January conviction in two weeks. This is unacceptable. The ECI, in the meanwhile, announced a by-election for Lakshadweep which Mr Faizal represented while his appeal against the conviction was pending before the high court. This is also unacceptable. Agencies need to take elections and their results far more seriously than they do now.
There are constitutional and legal provisions to disqualify an elected member but their shortcoming is that they do not allow the member a chance of appeal before losing membership. This is denial of natural justice, and hence unfortunate. The government must contemplate reintroducing the protection MLAs and MPs used to get under Section 8.4 of the RP Act before it was struck down by the apex court.
Citizens stand in the queue and vote a person to represent them in the legislature to make laws for them. That is one of the basic structures of democratic governance. It will be an unaffordable irony if the lawmakers themselves are denied the right to natural justice.