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Life Ban For Convicted Legislators: SC Pulls Up Election Commission For Not Taking A Clear Stand

Prabhati Nayak Mishra
12 July 2017 8:23 AM GMT
Life Ban For Convicted Legislators: SC Pulls Up Election Commission For Not Taking A Clear Stand
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The Election Commission of India today found itself in a difficult situation before the Supreme Court in a PIL which demanded life ban of convicted MPs and MLAs from contesting the elections.

A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi pulled up the Commission after its counsel was not able to convince the court that why the poll panel has not taken a stand on the issue.

The bench referred to the Commission's earlier affidavit in which the panel has supported the cause raised by the petitioner Advocate Ashwin Upadhyay.

To court's query whether EC has taken a stand in its recommendations on electoral reform, the lawyer said "commission supports the plea to the extent that there should be a mechanism for decriminalisation of politics. ..We have not taken a decision. We doubt whether it falls in legislature's domain."

The bench said "If you are constrained by the legislature from giving your views, please say so . Can you afford to remain silent. Is silence an option ?"

The petition, filed by Mr. Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, demanded that an order be issued directing the Centre to take necessary steps to debar persons charged with criminal offences from contesting elections, forming a political party and becoming office bearers of any party. It further seeks a direction for providing adequate infrastructure to set up special Courts to decide criminal cases related to members of the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary within one year.

“Purity and sanctity of electoral process, sin-qua-non for a sound system of governance appears to have become a forgotten thing in view of the entry of a large number of criminals in the Parliament and State Assembly. Sh. Krishnamurthy, the then Election Commissioner has pointed out that 40 politicians, involved in serious heinous crimes like loot, extortion, murder, rape etc were the Members of the 11th Lok Sabha and 700 politicians of similar background were in the State legislatures. Even the political parties out of the glamour of political power and consequent benefits do not hesitate in giving tickets to the criminals and do not object to their use in winning the elections. Thus, criminalization of the politics needs to be checked on top priority,” the Petition states.

It alleges that judicial interpretation of Section 8(3) of the Representation of Peoples Act has “not been very satisfactory.” Section 8(3) stipulates that a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years [other than the offences referred to in Section 8(1) and (2)] 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.

Mr. Upadhyay alleges that among the six national parties i.e. Indian National Congress (INC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (CPI), and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the NCP has the highest percentage of candidates with criminal candidates (57 per cent) followed by the CPI (M) (40 per cent). It further avers that the NCP has the highest percentage of candidates with serious criminal charges (39%) followed by the BJP (28%).
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