Government on Friday said it was working on a proposal to prevent the entry of criminals into politics even as a bill to prevent immediate disqualification of lawmakers upon conviction in a criminal case is pending in Parliament.
Law Minister Kapil Sibal said he was trying to build a consensus within Congress for "steps to put appropriate barriers in place" which would prevent criminals from entering politics. The party, he added, was serious about the issue.
"We want to take steps to reduce the prospect of criminals entering politics. People who are charged with very serious criminal offences should be prevented from entering politics," Sibal said during an interaction at the Indian Women's Press Corps.
Terming the passage of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill in Parliament as his "top priority", Sibal said he was willing to give the Chief Justice of India Constitutional status in the proposed body to rule out "speculation" that at a later stage the CJI could be removed as its chairperson.
"Following speculation, I am willing to give CJI constitutional status as the head of the JAC in the Constitutional Amendment Bill once it comes to Lok Sabha," he said. The Bill has been passed by the Rajya Sabha.
Sibal recently introduced in Rajya Sabha the Constitution (120th) Amendment Bill and the JAC Bill, 2013, which defines the establishment of the proposed body to recommend appointment and transfer of SC and High Court judges.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill says there will be a JAC but does not say it will be headed by the CJI. There were objections to that from jurists who wanted the CJI to be mentioned in the bill.
Sibal, however, ruled out stating the entire composition of the JAC in the bill. The composition of the JAC - CJI as its head, two senior SC judges, the Law Minister and two eminent persons as members - is defined in the main bill. The Secretary (Justice) will be the convener of the panel.
He said political parties, despite their majority in both Houses of Parliament, can never remove the CJI as the head of the proposed JAC.
"The courts would not allow that to happen... this is speculation. You