Parliament should decide what is good for democracy: Supreme Court
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Parliament should decide what is good for democracy: Supreme Court

Judiciary cannot step into the legislature''s arena to bar elected members with criminal antecedents from becoming ministers and it should be left to parliamentarians to decide what is good to save democracy, Supreme Court said today.

Judiciary cannot step into the legislature's arena to bar elected members with criminal antecedents from becoming ministers and it should be left to parliamentarians to decide what is good to save democracy, Supreme Court said today.

"In the name of judicial activism, should we be stepping into the arena marked for legislatures? Since the line is marked, can we be stepping into it? There is a separation of powers," a bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu observed.

"It is for the representatives of people to take a call. Now they have the recommendation of the Law Commission on the issue. They know how to govern the country.

They know what type of people should be there. We should not be stepping into their arena," the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and A K Mishra said. "To save democracy, parliamentarians can say what sort of people should be there," it observed, adding "it is not for us to say what is good governance. It is for them".

The bench cautioned that once a person is debarred from participating in election only with framing of charges, "you will be putting a stigma".

The remarks came during the hearing of a PIL seeking to debar elected members against whom grave criminal charges have been framed to be included in the Council of Ministers.

The bench said it can understand the anxiety of the petitioners but it "cannot go and pass a direction to disqualify a person from participating in electoral process or on being elected to become a minister merely on the ground that charges have been framed" as a person is presumed to be innocent until held guilty or convicted.

"Should people facing charges be allowed to participate in elections. At first brush, it appeals to us. But statutory provisions and Constitution says we can't do that.

"You have to adopt and go by the criminal jurisprudence that unless a person is convicted, he is innocent," it said. It also said it was not in a position to even lay down guidelines as there are legislations dealing with various aspects of election.  

The bench also observed: "In wild imagination, how can you go and say a person with criminal antecedent can participate in election but can't be recommended for being a minister."

It said it cannot give a direction for amendment or insertion of any word or statement in the statute that would debar a person having criminal antecedents from contesting or becoming a minister. 

Additional Solicitor Gen. Maninder Singh referred to several judgements including one delivered by the apex court's constitution bench on August 27, 2014 to buttress that it should be left to the legislatures to think on it. 

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