New Delhi: The Election Commission on Friday said it would like criminal candidates as well as those facing charges of heinous crime to be "immediately" debarred from contesting elections.
"We want it immediately," Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath said when asked whether the EC would like it to be enforced before the next general elections.
The proposal for debarring convicted candidates as well those facing charges of heinous crimes like rape and murder from contesting polls is pending with the government since 1998. It forms part of the electoral reforms proposed by the Election Commission to government from time to time.
"Commission`s view regarding banning criminals from contesting is one of the oldest in the country, as early as 1998. About 15 years back, Commission has made the proposals to the government," the CEC said.
He said, "Not only those who are convicted, those who are facing serious criminal charges on heinous affairs, they should also be barred from contesting the election. We have been pursuing and hoping for action."
Asked on what the poll body was doing with regard to pushing its proposal for enforcement, Sampath said, "I think you should ask the government."
The Election Commission as part of its electoral reform proposals to de-criminalise politics had on July 15, 1998, written to the government in this regard.
"For preventing persons with criminal background from becoming legislators, the Commission has made a proposal for disqualifying (from contesting election) a person against whom charges have been framed by a Court for an offence punishable by imprisonment of 5 years or more," the proposal read.
The chorus to ban candidates with criminal background from contesting polls has gained ground in the recent past amid public outrage against those committing heinous crimes, especially against women, in the wake of the recent Delhi gang-rape.
A number of legislators in various state assemblies as well as in Parliament are facing criminal charges, including those of rape and murder against them.
The Election Commission had also proposed disqualification of such candidates even prior to conviction, provided the court has framed charges.
Under the existing law (Section-8, ROP Act, 51) there is a disqualification once a person is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more (in the case of certain offences mentioned in sub-sections (1) of Section-8, conviction itself leads to disqualification, even without any sentence of imprisonment).
The poll body also proposed, "As a precaution against foisting false cases on the eve of election, it has been suggested that only those cases in which charges are framed six months prior to an election should be taken into account for that election."
The proposals for de-criminalisation of politics has been reiterated by the EC in November, 1999, July, 2004 and October, 2006, but the electoral reforms have not yet come about.