The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it was up to elected representatives, and not the court, to decide if the Election Commission could be empowered to deny symbols to political parties fielding criminals as candidates, reported NDTV.

After a bench questioned if the court could give the poll panel such powers, Attorney General KK Venugopal said a move like this would have “serious consequences” and would be “unconstitutional”.

“Who is to decide this – elected representatives or five judges sitting in this court?” said Venugopal. “The court is touching an area forbidden by the Constitution.”

The court was hearing petitions seeking to declare provisions of the Representation of People Act as ultra vires (beyond the state’s power). Parts of the act bar politicians sentenced to a jail term of two years or more from contesting elections for six years from the date of their release from prison. Petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, an advocate and a Bharatiya Janata Party leader, has sought lifelong bans on convicted politicians.

On Tuesday, the bench asked the Centre for details on the number of special courts set up to deal with cases involving politicians after its order last year, reported PTI. It also ordered the Centre to describe whether those were sessions courts or magisterial courts and what their territorial jurisdiction was. The bench also gave the Centre until August 28 to disclose the number of cases involving politicians which have been disposed of within the time limit of one year as mandated by it.

On December 14, the Supreme Court had told the government to ensure that the 12 special courts to try pending criminal cases against MPs and MLAs should start working by March 1.

The bench also sought information about the number of cases pending before each special court. It asked the government to clarify whether more special courts would be set up in the future and asked for all these details in its next hearing on August 28.