The Supreme Court took on the role of 'conscience-keeper' to nudge Parliament to amend the law on keeping criminals out of politics, while hearing petitions seeking an election bar on people facing serious criminal charges and not just those convicted.
'We have to remind Parliament about the serious situation. It has a constitutional obligation to amend Article 102 (relating to disqualification of MPs) of the Constitution,' the Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who headed a five-judge constitution bench, observed.'We say this as conscious-keepers of the Constitution. It is the cry of the citizenry. It is a collective need, collective cry of society. It is a national thinking today and this can't be ignored by the legislature... to inject purity into elections,' he said.
The Attorney-General, Mr. K.K. Venugopal, conceded that a 'stage has come for Parliament to review the situation' - a possible hint that the government may be open to some sort of legislation.
Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act bars only those convicted of a criminal offence from contesting elections - during the jail term and for a further six years.
The petitioners - the Public Interest Foundation, Bharatiya Matdata Sangathan and advocate Ashwini Upadhyay - have furnished data claiming nearly 34 per cent of the present MPs face serious criminal charges.
They have asked the bench, which includes Mr. Justices R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, to direct the poll panel to bar anyone against whom a serious criminal charge, entailing a punishment of at least five years, has been framed.
'Corruption is a noun, but when it enters the political arena, it becomes a verb which needs antibiotics. But corruption has developed resistance to antibiotics, so it needs a higher level of antibiotics to be cured,' Mr. Justice Misra said.