The 2013 ordinance Rahul Gandhi tore up that could have saved him from disqualification

The 2013 ordinance Rahul Gandhi tore up that could have saved him from disqualification

Congress leader and Wayanad Member of Parliament (MP) Rahul Gandhi has been disqualified from the Lok Sabha after a Gujarat magistrate court convicted him on Thursday for the offence of criminal defamation.

The sole option for Gandhi now is to secure a stay on the magistrate court order from a higher court.

Interestingly, ten years ago at a press conference, Gandhi had torn a copy of the ordinance passed by his own government, which would have saved him from his current predicament.

The ordinance was passed after the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, which provided sitting MPs and MLAs an additional layer of protection from disqualification in case s/he is convicted of certain offences.

The provision provided for a period of 3 months within which the convicted sitting MP/MLA cannot be disqualified. Furthermore, if the sitting MP/MLA were to file an appeal or revision within these three months from the date of conviction, s/he could not be disqualified until the appeal or revision was disposed.

The Supreme Court had struck down this provision in its famous judgment in Lily Thomas vs Union of India.

The UPA government had attempted to nullify the judgment by the Representation of the People (Second Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013 through the ordinance route.

The ordinance sought to amend Section 8 as follows:

"In the Representation of the People Act, 1951, in section 8, for sub-section (4), the following sub-section shall be substituted, namely:

–– “(4) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), sub-section (2) or sub-section (3), a disqualification under any of the said sub-sections shall not, in the case of a person who on the date of the conviction is a member of Parliament or the Legislature of a State, take effect, if an appeal or application for revision is filed in respect of the conviction and sentence within a period of ninety days from the date of conviction and such conviction or sentence is stayed by the court: Provided that after the date of the conviction and until the date on which the conviction is set aside by the court, the member shall neither be entitled to vote nor draw salary and allowances, but may continue to take part in the proceedings of Parliament or the Legislature of a State, as the case may be.’’

It further said that,

"Notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, decree or order of any court, tribunal or other authority, the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, as amended by this Act, shall have and shall be deemed always to have effect for all purposes as if the provisions of this Act had been in force at all material times".

The ordinance was passed by the UPA cabinet and was sent to the President for his assent when Gandhi, at a press conference, rejected the ordinance as "complete nonsense."

It was eventually withdrawn.