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Law

Can a Democratic Right to Represent People Be Taken Away Upon First Conviction?

The Ordinance sought to be introduced by the United Progressive Alliance government was intended to introduce a provision for appeal to address the harsh operation of the law.

While the legality of the judgment of a Surat court in the defamation case against Rahul Gandhi will be challenged, the decision to disqualify him from the Lok Sabha raises a larger question about the harshness and disproportionality of the consequences of a two year sentence upon conviction.

A spate of disqualifications of members of state assemblies and parliament in the recent past has given reason to consider a review of the existing law to provide reasonable opportunity to the member concerned to question the conviction without incurring disqualification as a legislator.

It is time to consider whether a valuable democratic and statutory right to represent people can be taken away upon first conviction without even a single appeal to a higher judicial forum.

The Ordinance sought to be introduced by the United Progressive Alliance government was intended to introduce a provision for appeal to address the harsh operation of the law.

It is well established that oppressive and disproportionate punishment is counter productive and does not serve the cause of justice. The majesty of law is best secured by its acceptability in the consciousness of the nation.

A progressive evolution of the law demands a purposive legislative and political response to the experience and application of laws.

Hopefully, a political consensus can be achieved on the imperatives for such a law.

Ashwani Kumar is a Senior Advocate and former Union Minister for Law and Justice.