HC seeks govt response
SRINAGAR: The J&K High Court has asked state government as well as Government of India to file a response to a Public Interest Litigation that seeks to set minimum qualification for members of the state legislature.
The notice was issued by a division bench of Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Dhiraj Singh Thakur after hearing petitioner-in-person advocate Akhail Ahmad of Leh.
All the respondents — state government through Commissioner Secretary Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Indian ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and State’s General Administration Department—have been asked to file the response within four weeks.
Akhail had sought directions from the court to the government for adopting provisions that require a candidate contesting elections to the Indian Lok Sabha, state legislature as well as the panchayats to have minimum academic qualifications.
Among the provisions, Akhail has sought amendment in the Representation of the People Act-1957.
The Act has not provided any guidelines in the form of minimum educational qualifications, good character and conduct for the candidate eligible for the state legislature.
In 2014, the Supreme Court of India had observed that the time has come for parliament to prescribe some minimum qualifications for parliamentarians and legislators as prescribed in other fields.
It had recalled the words of the India’s first president, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, in the Constituent Assembly that he would have liked to have some qualifications laid down for members of legislatures.
Akhail has also sought directions to debar under-trials and convicts from contesting the elections.
In a landmark ruling in 2013, the Apex Court had held that charge-sheeted members of parliament and legislative house, on conviction for offences, will be immediately disqualified from holding membership of the House without being given three months’ time for appeal, as was the case before.
In one of the judgements, Justice Kurian Joseph of the apex court wondered whether it would be desirable in a country governed by the rule of law to entrust the executive power with a person who was already in conflict with law.
“Will any reasonably prudent master leave the keys of his chest with a servant whose integrity is doubted? It may not be altogether irrelevant to note that a person even of doubtful integrity is not appointed in the important organ of the State which interprets law and administers justice, then why to speak of questioned integrity! What to say more, a candidate involved in any criminal case and facing trial, is not appointed in any civil service because of the alleged criminal antecedents, until acquitted,” he asked.