Stopping short of prescribing disqualification for tainted people becoming ministers, the Supreme Court on Wednesday advised the Prime Minister and chief ministers against giving ministerial berths to politicians facing criminal or corruption cases.
In a unanimous verdict, a five-judge Constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha said the PM and CMs should act in “national interest” and desist from inducting such legislators in their cabinet. However, it left it to the wisdom of the PM and CMs take a call on the issue.
“Thus, while interpreting Article 75(1)(appointment of PM and Ministers), definitely a disqualification cannot be added. However, it can always be legitimately expected, regard being had to the role of a Minister in the Council of Ministers and keeping in view the sanctity of oath he takes, the PM, while living up to the trust reposed in him, would consider not choosing a person with criminal antecedents against whom charges have been framed for heinous or serious criminal offences or charges of corruption to become a Minister,” it said.
In its 123-page judgement, the court said that it cannot pass any direction on disqualification as “it would tantamount to crossing the boundaries of judicial review”. “This is what the Constitution suggests and that is the constitutional expectation from the PM. Rest has to be left to the wisdom of the PM. We say nothing more, nothing less,” the bench said in a judgement that is “advisory in nature”.
“The PM is expected to act with constitutional responsibility as a consequence of which the cherished values of democracy and established norms of good governance get condignly fructified,” the bench said.
It said, “The framers of Constitution left many a thing unwritten by reposing immense trust in the PM. The scheme of the Constitution suggests that there has to be an emergence of constitutional governance which would gradually grow to give rise to constitutional renaissance.”
The judges said, “It is also expected that the PM should act in the interest of the national polity of the nation-state. He has to bear in mind that unwarranted elements or persons who are facing charge in certain category of offences may thwart or hinder the canons of constitutional morality or principles of good governance and eventually diminish the constitutional trust,” the bench said.
The verdict came on a PIL filed by one Manoj Narula in 2005. He had sought direction to the central and state governments to refrain