New Delhi: The Supreme Court had in July 2013 struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which protected convicted MPs and MLAs from disqualification if they appeal before a higher court within three months. Jayalalithaa’s conviction has become the latest focal point of a landmark Supreme Court verdict, which ruled that MPs and MLAs will be immediately disqualified if they are convicted in a criminal case by a trial court.
Jayalalithaa has to step down as the chief minister and is barred from contesting an election for six years after her release from the jail, if her conviction is neither stayed nor overturned by a superior court. The next state assembly election is due in 2016.
The Supreme Court had in July 2013 struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which protected convicted MPs and MLAs from disqualification if they appeal before a higher court within three months.
Therefore, as the legal position stands today, Jayalalithaa stands disqualified as a legislator owing to her conviction in the case of amassing assets disproportionate to her known sources of income.
The Representation of the People Act does not specifically bar a non-legislator to be chief minister and usually a non-member can be a CM for a maximum of six months. However, in 2001, when Jayalalithaa was appointed as the CM despite a subsisting conviction in a criminal case, the SC had quashed her appointment. The SC had then held that a person convicted for a criminal offence and sentenced to imprisonment for no less than two years cannot be CM.
The combined upshot of the SC rulings in 2001 and 2013 is that a non-member can hold a ministerial berth only if he or she is eligible to contest and not disqualified from contesting.
As she has been sentenced to four years in jail, there was no power with the trial court judge to suspend her sentence and let her remain out of the jail for enabling her to file an appeal. Jayalalithaa has to be committed to a jail in Bangalore but she may seek her transfer to a jail in Tamil Nadu since the only reason the case was shifted to Bangalore was to ensure a fair trial, which has now been concluded.
Jayalalithaa will have to file an appeal before the Tamil Nadu on branch of Madras High Court