The Centre on Thursday opposed a petition in the Supreme Court to ban politicians convicted in criminal cases from contesting elections for life, Bar and Bench reported.

The petition, filed by Supreme Court advocate and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, sought that convicted MPs and MLAs be treated like bureaucrats, who are barred from service for life after a criminal conviction, according to Hindustan Times.

The Ministry of Law and Justice said in its affidavit that while bureaucrats were governed by “service conditions”, there were no such rules for MPs or MLAs. It added 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 government also told the Supreme Court that elected representatives were not above the law. “The elected representatives are ordinarily bound by oath that they have taken to serve the citizens of their constituency in particular and country in general,” it said, according to Bar and Bench. “Their conduct is bound by propriety and good conscience. Elected representatives are not above the law and are equally bound by provisions of various statutes in force.”

The Centre added: “Thus no distinction between public servants and elected representatives.”

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The petitioner, Upadhyay, had also requested the court to bar convicted MPs and MLA from forming political parties or becoming office bearers of a party. His original petition did not include this request so he filed an amendment application.

In 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to constitute special courts to expedite trials in cases where MPs and MLAs were named as accused. The bench said these trials should be completed in a year.

The court issued the order after the Election Commission told it that lifetime ban should be imposed on convicted parliamentarians and MLAs from contesting elections. In July, the bench had asked the poll body to take a stand on the matter after it reversed its earlier position supporting a lifetime ban for a convicted lawmaker.