The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it will hear a petition seeking a lifetime ban on contesting elections for persons convicted of crimes, The Hindu reported.

The petition has been filed by lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. He contended in his plea that “even a constable can lose his job after conviction”, while a convicted MP or MLA could be re-elected after six years.

Upadhyay argued that convicted MPs and MLAs should be treated like bureaucrats, who are barred from service for life after a criminal conviction.

Senior advocate Vijay Hansaria had in February said in a report before the Supreme Court that 4,984 criminal cases were pending against sitting and former MPs and MLAs before sessions and magistrate courts across India, according to ANI. Hansaria is the amicus curiae, or friend of court, appointed to assist the bench in the case.

The amicus curiae said that 1,899 of these cases are over five years old.

“It may be noted that the total number of cases pending as of December 2018 was 4,110 and as of October 2020 was 4,859,” Hansaria said. “Even after disposal of 2,775 cases after December 4, 2018, the cases against MPs/MLAs have increased from 4,122 to 4,984.”

Centre had earlier opposed plea

The Centre had opposed Upadhyay’s petition in 2020, 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 or more in jail.

However, in November, the Supreme Court had again asked the Centre whether it was willing to ban politicians convicted in criminal cases from contesting elections for life. Additional Solicitor General SC Raju had said he would have to consult the Centre about the matter.

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.