New Delhi: Terming the ordinance on convicted MPs and MLAs as “immoral and unconstitutional”, BJP Thursday said President Pranab Mukherjee is not “duty-bound” to give assent to it and suggested to him that he should send it back to the government.
BJP Parliamentary Party Chief LK Advani, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley met Mukherjee and submitted to him a memorandum on the issue. They gave reasons as to why the ordinance should not have been approved by the Cabinet and requested him to refer it back to the government.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Advani said, “As Sushma Swaraj has said earlier, this ordinance is prima facie unconstitutional and we oppose it.” He added that it has been brought to negate the Supreme Court verdict and to permit convicted MPs to continue in office.
In the memorandum, BJP has pointed out that a bill on the issue is pending in the Rajya Sabha and has been referred by the Chairperson to a Standing Committee.
“What was the urgency that the government was compelled to bring this legislation through the ordinance route? The only compelling reason for bypassing Parliament and taking the ordinance route is to help a class of tainted politicians who have been already convicted or are apprehensive of a court judgement in near future,” the memorandum said.
Swaraj described the ordinance as “immoral and unconstitutional”. She said the talks with President Mukherjee on the issue were good and that he has assured that he will examine the matter.
Jaitley maintained that the President is not “duty-bound” to give assent to this Ordinance as it goes against provisions of the Constitution and he should refer it back to the government with his comments.
Swaraj denied that BJP earlier supported the bill on convicted MPs and MLAs and has backed out now.
She also alleged that there is a division in the government on the issue as some MPs are reportedly against the ordinance.
In the memorandum to the President, the party said the fact that this government can be “pressurised by the logic of the tainted” speaks volumes about its lack of integrity.
It further said procedurally it is improper to bring an ordinance in a matter which is already pending before the Standing Committee.
BJP supported the Supreme Court judgement of July 10 which said an MP or an MLA who has been convicted should not continue in office.
“The moral question being asked is once a provision has been held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court should the Indian Parliament exercise its legislative jurisdiction to enable a convicted person to continue as a lawmaker,” the party said.
The main Opposition asked if the Parliament should not have utilised this opportunity to allow a provision of this nature to be wiped from the statutes.
Jaitley wrote an article on the issue where he echoed these views. “The President would be well within his rights to advise the government that it ought not to legislate an unconstitutional legislation. President would be within his rights to refer the matter back to the government,” he said.
Noting that even though a convicted MP or MLA cannot vote on a bill as per the ordinance, his participation in the debates would certainly influence the course of law making.
He said criminalisation of politics and politicisation of criminals have been a matter of grave concern for the Indian democracy and India is still grappling with the problem of allowing politicians named in charge sheets with offences involving moral turpitude who contest elections and get elected to legislative bodies.
“The credibility of politics, public life and governance has suffered,” he said.
President calls ministers
After meeting the BJP delegation, President Pranab Mukherjee has called Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Law Minister Kapil Sibal for consultations on the issue.
The two ministers will give the President a briefing on the need for bringing the ordinance, official sources said.