EC wants debarring of candidates charged with heinous offences

After Supreme Court's intervention instantly disqualifying those convicted of serious offences, the Election Commission now wants debarring of a candidate from elections on framing of charges in cases of heinous offences.

New Delhi: After Supreme Court's intervention instantly disqualifying those convicted of serious offences, the Election Commission now wants debarring of a candidate from elections on framing of charges in cases of heinous offences.

In a bid to check candidates filing false affidavits along with their nomination papers, the EC has also proposed that it should be a ground for disqualification with enhanced punishment.

"Those who are facing criminal charges, the Commission has made a proposal to the Law Ministry (that) at least in such of the criminal cases where the (minimum) punishment is imprisonment of five years, if a person is accused of that and if charges have been framed by the competent magistrate at least six months before the scheduled date of election, they should be disqualified from contesting elections," Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath told PTI.

He said the proposal of the poll panel has been referred by the Law Ministry to the Law Commission which is working on making recommendations on electoral reforms.

Sampath said a "safeguard" has also been proposed to prevent misuse of the provision. The provision of barring persons from contesting polls will apply only in cases where charges have been framed for the alleged crime six months before the announcement of elections.

"This is one of the proposals of the EC because we should also be wary of some politically motivated cases against candidates just of the eve of the elections," Sampath said.

A July 12, 2013 Supreme Court judgement provides for immediate disqualification of a convicted lawmaker.

Another proposal made by the Commission is that filing of false affidavits be made an issue for disqualification with enhanced punishment.

"A person who files false affidavit should be given some punishment...I think two years or something, and it should also act as a disqualification. That will act as a deterrent," he said.

Under the present provision, candidates found guilty of concealing, failing to furnish information or providing false information in the election affidavit face six months in jail and a fine.

Asked why does the EC not favour making Model Code of Conduct violation into a legal offence, the CEC said it will lead to duplicacy of action.

"Is it not a double offence on the same thing? For most of the things, there is already a law. Under that law action has to be taken. It won't be correct, because what judiciary has to do, judiciary has to do. What EC has to do EC has to do. Then same thing will lie in both the fora -- judiciary and EC," he explained.

Asked whether the poll watchdog has prioritised some aspects of electoral reforms, Sampath said he would not like to "categorise them what is important, what is not important...Usually you know things like decriminalisation of politics is one thing which generally has priority from any point of view."

He said if something has to be done in the interest of certain aspects like decriminalisation, it is for everyone to feel about that. "These things have been told repeatedly...We keep working towards purity in public life," he said.

Responding to questions on whether EC would like to have more powers with regard to conduct of elections and maintaining a level playing field, he said, "for any organisation to seek more powers, I don't think I would say no. Any regulatory organisation having more powers will further enable the organisation to discharge its functions more effectively. There is no doubt about that."

Sampath also rejected suggestions of EC 'not having teeth'. "Is not correct for the reason that we take action... we make people reply in 48 hours. If an extension is requested, we extend the time by another 48 hours. Case is disposed off in 96 hours. Have you seen this anywhere else. Does any other forum dispose off cases in 96 hours," he asked.

In response to a question of hate speeches made by political leaders during campaigning, the Chief Election Commissioner said during the recently-held assembly by-elections, it had even asked poll authorities to ensure that FIRs are lodged against such people.

In September, Election Commission had reprimanded controversial BJP MP Yogi Adityanath for "provoking feelings of enmity" during a speech in Noida and asked the state poll officials to ensure filing of an FIR against him.

The EC's rebuke for the Hindutva hardliner for allegedly invoking "religion" and making "appeal on this ground to secure votes" for his party came a day after he was booked for defying a ban on election meeting in Lucknow.

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