Political parties across the board rallied behind the government on Tuesday to dodge a Supreme Court order that said people in police or judicial custody couldn't contest elections. With support pouring in from almost all parties, the government will soon move an amendment to the Representation of the People Act (RPA), which will enable it to overturn the apex court order.
The Supreme Court had on July 10 said a member of Parliament (MP) or a Member of a Legislative Assembly (MLA) convicted of a crime attracting a punishment of two years or above will cease to be a lawmaker immediately. The court also said those in jail or under police custody cannot contest elections to legislative bodies. The government has appealed against the July 10 order before the apex court.
At an all-party meeting convened by the government on Tuesday, the parties voiced concerns about "judicial overreach" and how supremacy of Parliament had to be ensured. A recent ruling of the Patna High Court barring a candidate arrested even for a day from contesting polls was also discussed at the meeting.
Parties were of the view that while the membership of convicted MPs should be protected, a few restrictions such as attendance/voting in Parliament not being counted may be considered. The consensus was that at no cost can an MP be disqualified from holding office if convicted by a court.
Two other issues figured in the meeting - the proposed Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, which seeks to replace the collegium system, and the Supreme Court order saying there can't be caste-based reservation in faculty posts for specialty and super-speciality courses in AIIMS.
All parties were of the view that the Supreme Court order should be reviewed. Several parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wanted the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill to be referred to a parliamentary standing committee.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath later said: "We discussed the SC judgement on AIIMS. We talked about the Judicial Commission and various court pronouncements. There is consensus among all political parties for effective steps to ensure supremacy of Parliament... There is also a consensus on the Bills on reservation in AIIMS. All parties demanded amendment in the Representation of the People Act. All political parties want the Judicial Commission Bill to be introduced in this session."
At the all-party meeting, the government also appealed to the Telugu Desam Party members agitating over Telangana to allow the House to function.
The government had managed to secure an assurance from the BJP on the food Bill. However, it could not be taken up for discussion in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday due to disruptions. The government is becoming increasingly desperate to pass the food Bill and is hopeful of pushing it through on Wednesday.