Disqualification of K Ponmudy over Corruption Charges

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What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in the News?
  • Background
  • Article 102 and Article 191 of the Constitution
  • Grounds on which an MLA/MLC can be Disqualified
  • News Summary

Why in News?

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a plea by Tamil Nadu Government seeking its intervention in reinstating K Ponmudy as a minister.

Background

  • The Madras High Court in December last year convicted Ponmudy and his wife in a disproportionate assets case.
  • The HC convicted the former minister and his wife and awarded them a three-year jail term, along with a fine of Rs 50 lakh.
  • The couple was on trial for amassing assets during his tenure as minister for Mines and Minerals in the 2006–2011 DMK government.
  • This decision by the High Court triggered Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
    • “A person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years since his release.”
  • While Ponmudy was disqualified and could no longer be a minister, he moved the Supreme Court challenging the HC ruling.

Article 102 and Article 191 of the Constitution

  • The criteria for disqualifications from membership of a state legislature are mentioned in the Article 191 of the Constitution of India.
  • Similarly, the disqualification criteria are laid down in the Article 102 relating to the membership of both the houses of Parliament.

Grounds on which an MLA/MLC can be Disqualified

  • The Parliament has prescribed a number of disqualifications in the Representation of People Act, 1951:
    • He must not have been found guilty of certain election offences or corrupt practices in the elections.
    • He must not have been convicted for any offence resulting in imprisonment for two or more years.
    • He must not have failed to lodge an account of his election expenses within the time.
    • He must not have any interest in government contracts, works or services.
    • He must not be a director or managing agent nor hold an office of profit in a corporation in which the government has at least 25 per cent share.
    • He must not have been dismissed from government service for corruption or disloyalty to the state.
    • He must not have been convicted for promoting enmity between different groups or for the offence of bribery.
    • He must not have been punished for preaching and practicing social crimes such as untouchability, dowry and sati.

Tamil Nadu Government approached the Supreme Court

  • The Tamil Nadu Government has approached the Supreme Court over the refusal of Governor RN Ravi to re-induct MLA K Ponmudy as a Minister in the State Government.
  • Arguments forwarded by the TN Government
    • Further, the State seeks a direction to the Governor to act as per the Chief Minister’s recommendation to appoint Ponmudy as a Minister.
    • The State argued that the Governor has to act as per the Chief Minister’s recommendation in terms of Article 164 (1) of the Constitution.
    • The State also cited the Supreme Court’s judgment in Lok Prahari case (2023) which stated that if the conviction is suspended, then disqualification will cease to operate.
    • The State argued that the Governor, by acting against the judgment, is committing contempt of court.
  • Role of Supreme Court
    • Last week, the Supreme Court had stayed the conviction of Ponmudy in a Disproportionate Assets case.
    • While staying the conviction and sentence, the SC observed that in view of Section 8(3) of the RPA, 1951, the MLA, who was sentenced to over 2 years of imprisonment, would have incurred disqualification as a result of conviction.
  • Stand of Tamil Nadu Governor
    • Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi wrote to the Chief Minister MK Stalin staying that since Ponmudy was held guilty by the High Court for a serious offence amounting to moral turpitude, relating to corruption.
    • Hence, his re-induction in the Council of Ministers while he remains tainted of corruption would be against Constitutional morality.
    • The Governor stated that the conviction has only been suspended and not set aside by the Supreme Court.

Q1) What do you mean by Office of Profit?

 Office of profit is a position that brings or has the potential to bring the person holding it financial gain. Under the Indian constitution (Articles 102 and 191), holding an office of profit by a legislator is not allowed. Holding the office of profit can lead to the disqualification of said legislator (MP or MLA).

Q2) What do you mean by Disproportionate Assets?

Disproportionate assets refer to assets or wealth that are significantly higher than the known sources of income of an individual. In legal proceedings, it is alleged that the accused has acquired assets through corrupt or illegal means.


Source: Tamil Nadu government approaches Supreme Court as Governor Ravi refuses to swear-in Ponmudy as Minister | IE