New Delhi, Mar 24: The Supreme Court today (Mar 24, 2006) referred to a Constitution bench a PIL seeking directions to drop tainted ministers from the Union cabinet.
The court sent clear signals that it wants to settle once and for all the controversy regarding inclusion of persons with criminal background in the Council of Ministers.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Mr.Justice C.K. Thakker also issued notices to the Centre and all states and Union Territories.
Earlier, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam pleaded that presumption of innocence lies in favour of an accused till he or she was convicted by the court.
Countering the argument, the Chief Justice asked,"Will you appoint a person of such a background as a judge or election commissioner?" The court felt that the issue has to be considered in the light of good governance, purity of system, equality and public perception both internally and internationally while referring the matter to the constitution bench.
The court directed the Centre, states and Union territories to file their response within four weeks.
The petitioner Manoj Narula had earlier pleaded that inclusion of persons with dubious and criminal antecedents was detrimental to the rule of law as well as the democratic fabric of the country.
The apex court shall now consider the whole gamut of the controversy as the issue has gained public importance due to the increasing number of persons with criminal background and facing allegations of moral turpitude becoming ministers both at the Centre and in the state governments.
There has been huge public outcry against persons facing charges of heinous crimes like murder, dacoity,rape and fraud being made ministers.
The court, however ordered the deletion of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, other union ministers namely Mohammed Taslimuddin, M.M.A. Fatmi, Prem Chand Gupta and Jai Parkash Yadav from the list of respondents as they had been unnecessarily been made a party to the petition.
Jai Parkash Yadav has already been removed from the cabinet following his arrest after forcibly freeing his brother from the custody of police.