With nearly half the state assembly members facing serious criminal charges, Wednesday’s landmark Supreme Court judgement to keep convicted leaders out of power has sent legislators in Uttar Pradesh into a tizzy.

“If the Supreme Court verdict is implemented, the strength of the assembly will go down by half,” a senior leader of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) said.

The records show that of the 403 legislators in the country’s most populous state that sends the largest number of 80 MPs to Parliament, 189 have serious criminal cases -- ranging from robbery, murder, rape to kidnapping and extortion --pending against them.

Independent MLA from Kunda and cabinet minister in the Akhilesh Yadav
Donning a new hat: Independent MLA from Kunda and cabinet minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government Raja Bhaiyya had to quit following his name cropping up in the murder case of a police officer

Of all the cases pending, 194 invite a minimum two-year prison term. It is for this reason that the apex court judgement has sent a chill down the spines of most political parties in the state.

According to the records, of the 189 legislators facing serious criminal charges, a staggering 111 are from the SP, 29 from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), 25 from the BJP and 13 from the Congress. The remaining 11 are either independents or belong to regional parties.

The reaction of political parties to the apex court judgement has been guarded. Welcoming the verdict, BJP state unit chief Laxmikant Bajpai said that it “would go a long way in cleansing the political system”.

“The political parties have so far paid lip service to efforts to weed out criminals, but I am sure that now they will be more careful in selecting candidates.” He, however, cautioned that in many instances cases slapped against politicians were “more political than criminal” in nature.

State general secretary of the SP CP Rai termed the apex court judgement “idealistic and utopian”. “It is a revolutionary move but is fit for ideal societies and not for those where police is infamous for slapping false cases, killing people in fake encounters and dances to the tunes of their political masters,” he asked.

Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi termed the judgement “path breaking”and that will go a long way in “cleaning up the political system”. However, the BSP refused to comment, saying the party “required further, serious and threadbare study of the judgement”.

Court bans caste based rallies in UP
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court yesterday banned caste-based rallies in UP with immediate effect. The court passed the order while hearing a PIL filed by a lawyer , who contended that rallies based on castes were against the constitution and threatened to vitiate social harmony.
The court also issued notices to the central and state governments, the Election Commission, SP, BSP, BJP and Congress, making them party to the litigation. In the last few months, the BSP had held ‘Brahman Sammelans’ in four places, with the biggest show of strength held in Lucknow. The ruling SP too recently held a similar Brahman convention and a Muslim rally.