NEW DELHI: Upon his conviction and sentence two year in a defamation case, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi may suffer disqualification as Wayanad MP.
The Supreme Court in a landmark verdict in 2013 declared that an MP or an MLA would stand disqualified immediately upon conviction.
In Lily Thomas case (2013), the Supreme Court had ruled that sitting MP and MLA would lose membership of the legislature if he or she is convicted in a criminal case.
Before the judgement, in view of the provision of Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, the convicted law makers could continue their membership of assemblies and Parliament despite their being held guilty in a criminal case, provided they filed an appeal against such convictions within three months.
In Manoj Narula vs Union of India (2014), the Constitution Bench has held that a disqualification under Section 8(3) of the Representation of People Act is attracted only if the sentence awarded to a convict is not less than two years imprisonment.
In Lily Thomas case, it was stated categorically that the seat automatically falls vacant by virtue of Articles 101(3)(a) and 190(3)(a) of the Constitution.
However, in Lok Prahari vs Election Commission of India (2018), the Supreme Court had further held that the disqualification will not operate from the date of the stay of conviction by the appellate court.
So, Rahul Gandhi, as of now, would stand disqualified, experts feel, provided he gets an immediate stay on the conviction.
Notably, Section 8 (3) of the Representation of People Act states a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.
Supreme Court advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha tweeted, the Supreme Court judgment is very clear. If someone is ordered for jail term of two or more years, he loses his membership in Parliament/Assembly.
"Getting bail or appeal pending before higher court make no difference to it," he wrote.
Veteran journalist and senior advisor to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India Kanchan Gupta said, "Why Congress MP Rahul Gandhi faces 'immediate disqualification' as per landmark Supreme Court judgement of 10 July 2013:
Trial court has held Rahul Gandhi guilty of criminal defamation; sentenced him to 2 years jail. SC has said this should lead to immediate disqualification."
"In a democracy, nobody, absolutely nobody is above the law. All are equal. The law, therefore, equally applies to Rahul Gandhi," he said, citing the Lily Thomas case judgement.