The recent disqualification of Rahul Gandhi from Lok Sabha has put the spotlight on provisions of an Act which has been used to remove 42 members from Parliament since 1988, with the 14th Lok Sabha (2004-2009) witnessing the ouster of 19 lawmakers in connection with the cash-for-query scam and cross-voting.
The disqualification of these lawmakers has been on various grounds like changing political allegiances, for conduct unbecoming of a parliamentarian and after being convicted by a court for crimes that have a jail term of two years or more.
The latest round of disqualification of Congress leader Gandhi, NCP leader Mohammad Faizal PP, and BSP leader Afzal Ansari came after their conviction by courts with jail terms of more than two years, invoked the provisions of the Representation of the People Act.
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The Act deals with automatic disqualification of MPs and state legislators upon being convicted and sentenced for two years or more in a criminal case.
The disqualification of Faizal, who represents Lakshadweep in the Lok Sabha, was revoked after he obtained a stay over his conviction and sentence, in an attempt to murder case, from the Kerala High Court.
Rahul has moved the Gujarat High Court to seek relief in the criminal defamation case involving the Modi surname in which a Surat court had sentenced him to two years in jail.
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The first disqualification of a Lok Sabha member after the anti-defection law was enacted in 1985 was that of Lalduhoma, a Congress member, who filed his nomination papers for the Mizoram Assembly elections as a candidate of the Mizo National Union, a party founded by him.
The ninth Lok Sabha, when the then Janata Dal leader VP Singh formed a coalition government, saw nine Lok Sabha members fall foul of the anti-defection law, which led to their disqualification.
However, it was the 14th Lok Sabha that saw the ouster of maximum members from the House – 10, for unbecoming conduct as member, for accepting bribes, for raising questions in Parliament, and nine for cross-voting during the Vote of Confidence sought by the UPA-I government in July 2008 after the Left Front withdrew support to it over the civil nuclear deal with the US.
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Six members of the BJP, two from BSP and one each from the Congress and RJD were expelled from the Lok Sabha in 2005 over the cash for query scam. One Rajya Sabha member from BSP too was expelled from the House.
The expulsions were upheld by the Supreme Court. None of these cases were referred to the President for approving the expulsions since the legislature itself is competent to do so, Devendra Singh Aswal, former Additional Secretary, Lok Sabha, told PTI.
The 10th Lok Sabha, when then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao led a coalition government, saw four members being disqualified from the House under the anti-defection law.
The Rajya Sabha also has its share of disqualifications under the anti-defection law – Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (1989), Satyapal Malik (1989), Sharad Yadav (2017) and Ali Anwar (2017).
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Shibu Soren and Samajwadi Party member Jaya Bachchan were disqualified from the Rajya Sabha in 2001 and 2006 respectively for holding an office of profit. While Soren was the Chairman of the Jharkhand Area Autonomous Council, Bachchan was the Chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh Film Development Council.
A disqualification petition against the then Congress President Sonia Gandhi, for holding an office of profit of Chairperson of the National Advisory Council, became infructuous as she quit as member of the Lok Sabha.
To avoid possible political upheaval, the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959, was amended in 2006 retrospectively w.e.f. April 4, 1959 and similar petitions became infructuous, Aswal, who is also a member of the Bar Council of India, said.
A judgment of the apex Court, referred to as the Lily Thomas case, laid down the legal position making it clear that any conviction which carries a sentence of two years or more will automatically result in the disqualification of an elected representative.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat only has to notify the vacancy by issuing a notification so that the Election Commission can start the process for a bypoll, Aswal said.
As a result of the judgement, Rajya Sabha member of the Congress, Rasheed Masood was disqualified from the upper house due to his conviction in a corruption case.
RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and JD(U) member Jagdish Sharma were disqualified from the Lok Sabha following their conviction in the fodder scam.
(With agency inputs)