The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Wednesday if it was willing to ban politicians convicted in criminal cases from contesting elections for life, Live Law reported.

The court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who argued that convicted MPs and MLAs should be treated like bureaucrats, who are barred from service for life after a criminal conviction.

“A convicted person cannot become a clerk, but can become a minister”, Upadhyay told the court.

Chief Justice of India NV Ramana asked Additional Solicitor General SV Raju what the government’s view on the matter was. “Are you willing to ban politicians who got convicted from contesting elections?” Ramana asked.

The lawyer said he will have to consult the Centre about this first. “I need to take instructions [from the government]. I cannot say anything off hand.”

The Centre had in 2020 opposed Upadhyay’s petition, arguing that while bureaucrats were governed by “service conditions”, there were no such rules for MPs and MLAs.

The government had added in its affidavit that politicians were governed by the Representation of the People Act, which lays down disqualification from contesting polls for six years, for a criminal offence punishable with two years and more in jail.

The Election Commission of India had in 2017 supported a lifetime ban on convicted politicians. Later, it backtracked on its position, saying that it did not want a permanent ban but was in favour of decriminalising politics within a set framework, ANI reported.