news Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | June 26, 2014 | 12.27 pm IST Four MLAs in Karnataka made headlines when they arrived in Vidhan Soudha earlier this week to attend the ongoing Legislature session straight from jail.¬† But considering they were jailed four months after they were elected last May, they have effectively been absent from their constituencies. Four MLAs - Anand Singh (BJP MLA from Vijayanagar), TH Suresh Babu (BSR Congress MLA from Kampli), Satish Sail (independent MLA from Karwar) and B Nagendra (independent MLA from Kudligi) have been attending the Legislature session since it began.¬† All four of them were arrested in September-October last year in connection with the illegal mining scam in Karnataka. They were given special permission by a Central Bureau of Investigation court to attend the session for a month. Asked for his response, B Nagendra said that the cases would be settled and that they would soon be out. But despite his optimism, for all practical purposes, these MLAs cannot be easily approached by the people of the constituencies from which they have been elected.¬† What does Indian law do in such a situation?¬† Professor Vijayakumar of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, says that members of both houses in the Parliament and in the state Legislatures have their respective House privileges.¬† Chapter 21 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Karnataka Legislative Assembly deals with Privileges and the arrest of members of the House. The rules make it obligatory for the arresting authority to inform the House of the arrest of a member and the jail in which they are lodged.¬† He said that the MLAs were perfectly within the law to approach the courts to give them permission to attend the Assembly session.¬† He explained that under Indian law, only if an elected representative was absent for six months from the house without explanation, she or he could be disqualified.¬† But as far as being jailed for the alleged commission of an offence, an elected representative enjoyed the same rights as any other person. It was only if convicted, that an elected representative stood disqualified. In July 2013, the Supreme Court said that conviction for an offence meant immediate disqualification of an MP or MLAs without the three-month period for appeal. Like all other citizens, they could approach the courts for bail.¬†Vijayakumar also said that Indian law and even international jurisprudence treated an accused as innocent until proven guilty. In this spirit, the Supreme Court had set a precedent by saying that bail was the rule, and jail the exception. This was now being followed by the subordinate judiciary, he said. The right to be represented Asked about the ‚Äúrights‚ÄĚ of the people who these MLAs represent, Vijayakumar said that Indian law did not recognise such a right. He said that neither of the two Indian laws concerning the election of leaders had any provision recognising the right of the people to be represented.¬† The two laws are The Representation of the People Act 1950 and Representation of People Act 1951. Neither have any provision relating to the right of recall either, so that if unable to discharge his/her duties, an elected representative cannot be recalled and another elected instead. Indian law apparently, has no solution for a situation like this. Under-trials often remain in jail for years. If these MLAs do not get bail, what do people do when they simply cannot approach their representatives in government?¬†