New Delhi, March 21: The Election Commission of India in a major move has supported in Supreme Court a demand to ban convicted politicians from contesting polls for their entire lifetime. In its affidavit submitted before the Apex court, the Election Commission stated that the plea made by PIL petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay is “not adversarial” in seeking directives for ensuring that trials of MPs and MLAs are concluded within a year and that such convicts are prohibited for life from the political process, the Indian Express reported.
Upadhyay is a lawyer and a Delhi BJP spokesperson. He has contended that letting politicians fight polls again was a violation of the right to equality under Article 14. Upadhyay also stated that when a person is convicted of any criminal offense, he is suspended automatically and debarred from his services for life.
The report also stated that the EC has already submitted detailed proposals for electoral reforms. The reforms include decriminalisation of politics, making the offense of bribery a cognizable offense, banning advertisements during 48 hours before the polls and prohibition of paid news. “…the answering respondent (EC) supports the cause espoused by the petitioner,” stated the affidavit, filed by EC Director Vijay Kumar Pandey. (ALSO READ: Election Commission awaits funds for VVPAT machines from Centre to ensure transparency in Lok Sabha Elections 2019)
The affidavit read, “It is pertinent to mention that most of the recommendations/proposals of the answering respondent (EC) has been endorsed by the Law Commission in its 244th and 255th reports. However, most of the reforms are either pending considerations by the Union of India or have not been approved for the time being”.
The electoral reforms and decriminalisation of politics remain pending before the government. The poll panel on the plea for fixing the maximum age criteria and minimum educational qualification said that the issue is in legislative domain and would require amendment to the Constitution. The PIL read, “However, this rule is applied differently in the case of convicted person in a legislature. Even after conviction and undergoing sentence, a convicted person can form his own political party and is eligible to become the office bearer of any political party. In addition, a convicted person is eligible to contest the election and eligible to become Member of Legislature and even Minister after the expiry of six-year period from the date of conviction”, reported the Indian Express.
According to the existing legal regime under the Representation of the People Act, a politician convicted and sentenced to a jail term of two years or more shall be disqualified from contesting polls for six years. from the date of his release from prison after conclusion of the term. The matter is likely to be listed for hearing next on Friday. The Election Commission also stated that it is alive to the issues that concern the conduct of free and fair elections for a healthy democracy.