Congress urges Prime Minister Modi to come clean
By Karuna Madan, Correspondent
Published: 19:30 August 27, 2014
Published: 19:30 August 27, 2014
|A security personel walks in front of the Indian Supreme court in New Delhi on August 27, 2014. India’s top court said lawmakers with criminal backgrounds should not serve in government. Image Credit: AFP|
New Delhi: The ruling by the Supreme Court on ministers with criminal background in the government has put the spotlight on Narendra Modi and his cabinet after the prime minister swept to power this year pledging clean governance.
The court said that lawmakers with criminal backgrounds should not serve in government, with 13 ministers in the current administration facing charges for attempted murder, rioting and other offences.
“We leave it to the wisdom of the Prime Minister whether to appoint people with criminal background or not. The PM and the CMs should not include people with criminal antecedents in their cabinet. Those in conflict with law and involved in offenses of moral turpitude and corruption should not be allowed to discharge duty as ministers,” the apex court said in its judgement while dismissing the petition filed by Manoj Narula, who had sought direction against criminalisation of politics.
It was a unanimous ruling by the bench comprising Lodha, Dipak Misra, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and SA Bobde. While all five judges stood by the verdict passed, two of them — Justice Kurian and Justice Lokur — strongly insisted that if a person with dubious integrity is barred from civil services, then politicians with criminal background should also be barred from the cabinet.
“We are saying nothing more, nothing less and it is left on the wisdom of the PM to decide. PM and CMs will be well advised not to include such people in their ministry. Corruption is an enemy of the nation. As a trustee of the Constitution, the PM is expected not to appoint unwarranted persons as ministers, no disqualification can be prescribed,” the judges ruled on a 10-year-old petition that sought the removal of chargesheeted ministers from the UPA government at the time.
Modi’s cabinet has 13 ministers with police cases, but Wednesday’s ruling will have a bearing on them only if charges have been framed by a court.
Earlier, the Centre had argued that the dismissal of ministers would be against the Constitutional prerogative of the PM and the will of the people, and that “once a person is a Member of Parliament (MP), he is entitled to be in the council of ministers.”
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) welcomed the ruling.
“The apex Court is wise in going by the spirit of the law. They have done the second best thing of appealing to the conscience of the PM,” BJP leader Subramanian Swamy told the Gulf News.
Reacting to the Court ruling, the Congress urged the PM to come clean on this.
“The Supreme Court has made a very critical observation. Hope the PM does not include tainted leaders in his Cabinet. The PM has to now come up and state clearly what he plans to do, whether he agrees or disagrees with the verdict. In politics, one is bound to morality and ethics,” Congress leader Manish Tewari told the Gulf News.
“It is a very strong message to the PM. Indirectly, the Supreme Court has advised the PM to drop ministers with criminal background. There is a need on the part of the PM to be very serious now. Before elections, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by BJP promised to root out corruption, now there are 13 ministers in the government with criminal background. In the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, there were no ministers with criminal background. The PM must be serious and act on the advice of the Supreme Court,” Congress leader Rashid Alvi told the Gulf News.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader DP Tripathi said those with criminal background should not be made ministers. If the chargesheet is filed against a minister, he must lose the right to be in the Cabinet.
In an earlier hearing, it was argued that those with a criminal past should not be made a part of the Cabinet. This was limited to people who had criminal chargesheets filed against them and were taken into consideration by a criminal court.
The government, however, argued that only Parliament can decide the threshold of what would constitute as being a criminal past. The court also ruled that it cannot pass directions for disqualification of ministers facing criminal and corruption charges.
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