Nobody is above the law
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]omeone once asserted that “Politics is the first refuge of a gentleman but the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Perhaps he has not too far wrong
The UPA government is currently working on a proposal to prevent the entry of criminals into politics even as a bill to prevent immediate disqualification of law makers is pending in Parliament. Towards this end, Law Minister Kapil Sibal, says the Congress aims to put appropriate barriers in place.This is understandable since there are dozens of MPs of various parties with criminal records and several have in the past two months been charged with rape and other cases and had to resign from their posts as Ministers. Even godmen—who should be preaching moral abstinence—were accused of rape, arrested and remanded to judicial custody. Such godmen are also indulging in politics.
The Law Minister’s move was spurred because Congress Member in Rajya Sabha and a party Working Committee member, Rasheed Masool, is currently facing disqualification under the provisions of Representatives of the People (RP) Act.
This was the first conviction after the Supreme Court on July 10, 2013 struck down a law (sub-section 4 of Section 8) that provided immunity to MPs and MLAs from immediate disqualification. The incumbent Members can avoid disqualification till pendency of the appeal against conviction in a higher court. The appeal has to be made within three months of the conviction.
A Special CBI court on September 19 held Rajya Sabha Member Rasheed Masood guilty in a case of corruption and other offences. Masood, Minister of Health in the VP Singh government between 1990 and 1991, was held guilty of fraudulently nominating undeserving candidates to MBBS seats allotted to Tripura in medical colleges across the country from the central pool.
Special CBI Judge J P S Malik held Masood guilty of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and 468 (forgery). Masood faces up to maximum seven years imprisonment. The sentence will be pronounced on October 1. The Union Law Minister defended the amendment to the RP Act to protect MPs, MLAs and MLCs from immediate disqualification upon conviction in a criminal case with a jail term of two or more years. He said that while the apex court had struck down the law for immunity, the amendment was necessary. However, he also conceded that some lawmakers were using the provision to their benefit.
The UPA government’s move now is to “reduce” the prospect of criminals entering politics. This means people who are charged with “very serious” criminal cases should be prevented from entering politics—in the very first place.
Since nobody is above the law, the Legislators of our very own 60-Member Legislative Assembly also come under the jurisdiction of the various Acts and related laws. We are fortunate that there have been no case of rape charges against our lawmakers but as to allegations of corruption, who can charge whom? In this context, perhaps the statement of a senior Naga National leader might have some relevance. On being disparaged about the increasing and unabated taxes, he implied that our elected leaders—Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, MLAs and Advisors—were themselves to be observed.
While not taxing the people concerning funds, the Legislators are themselves sometimes “taxed” by the general public. However, they are also in a position to “siphon off” funds otherwise meant for development purposes, if at all they are interested. According to Christopher North, “Laws were made to be broken.” There are many loopholes in the law. These loopholes are not always of a fixed dimension. They tend to enlarge as the numbers that pass through wear them away.
Nevertheless, as Cicero (106-48 BC) said: “The good of the people is the chief law.”