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Indian Case Summary

Public Interest Foundation vs Union Of India on 25 September, 2018 – Case Summary

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In the case of Public Interest Foundation vs Union Of India on 25 September, 2018, the Supreme Court of India was faced with a significant question concerning the disqualification of membership beyond Article 102(a) to (d) and the law made by the Parliament under Article 102(e). This case was of particular importance as it dealt with the increasing trend of criminalization in Indian politics, which was seen as a threat to the democratic ethos of the country.

Facts of the Case

The case was brought before the Supreme Court by the Public Interest Foundation and others (the petitioners) against the Union of India and another (the respondents). The petitioners raised concerns about the rise of persons with criminal antecedents in politics, arguing that this trend was detrimental to the democratic principles of the country. They urged the Court to take a broader view of the issue and to assume the role of judicial statesmanship to curb the criminalization of politics.

Issues Raised

The primary issue that emerged for consideration was whether the Court could lay down disqualification for membership beyond what is provided in Article 102(a) to (d) and the law made by the Parliament under Article 102(e). The petitioners argued that the Court should take a wider view of the issue and use its role as a judicial statesman to curb the criminalization of politics. On the other hand, the respondents, including the Attorney General for India, argued that the Court should not cross its constitutional boundaries and should respect the separation of powers.

Court’s Observations

The Court observed that the Constitution provides for disqualification for being chosen as a member of either House of Parliament and similarly disqualification for being chosen or for being a member of the Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council of a State, the law has to be made by the Parliament. The Court also noted that the Parliament has the exclusive legislative power to lay down disqualification for membership.

The Court also referred to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which deals with disqualification for membership of the Parliament and the State Legislatures. The Court noted that the word ‘disqualified’ in the Act clearly states that a person can be disqualified from being a member under the provisions of the said Chapter and/or on no other ground.

The Court also referred to the principle of constitutional silence or abeyance and stated that it is not possible to infer that there is a prohibition to think of a person as a minister if charges have been framed against him in respect of heinous and serious offences including corruption cases under the criminal law.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Court held that it is not within its powers to lay down disqualification for membership beyond what is provided in the Constitution and the law made by the Parliament. The Court emphasized that it is the responsibility of the Parliament to enact laws regarding disqualification for membership and it is the duty of the people to elect suitable persons to the legislature. The Court also stressed the importance of constitutional morality, constitutional governance, and constitutional trust in the functioning of a democracy.