The Law Commission today sought the opinion of various stakeholders, including political parties, on sensitive issues of decriminalising politics and disqualifying those who file false affidavits.
Based on today's day-long consultations, the Commission will finalise a report on the two issues it has to submit to the Supreme Court later this month.
In December, the apex court had asked the law panel to submit a report on the two issues — whether disqualification should be triggered upon conviction as it exists today or upon framing of charges or filing of charge sheet and whether filing of false affidavit under Section 125 A of Representation of the People Act should be a ground for disqualification. It wanted to know if it can be a ground for disqualification, what mode and mechanism be followed for such disqualification.
Addressing the gathering, Commission Chairman Justice (Retd) Ajit Prakash Shah said the panel has been working on the issue of criminalisation of politics in the country and how to curb this through laws. He said it is significant to understand how providing false information about the background, history, standing and antecedents of candidates could lead to democracy being filtered by unwarranted elements and consequences.
Former Supreme Court judge and former Chairman of Law Commission Justice BP Jeevan Reddy said all political parties field candidates with serious criminal cases. "Significantly, the rate of success of the candidates with serious criminal cases was higher than others. Probably this is the reason why political parties prefer candidates with serious crimes to their credit. Of the winning candidates, during the period 2004 to 2013, 28.4 per cent had 9,993 cases pending against them, out of which 1,287 cases related to murder, rape, corruption, extortion and dacoity," he said.
The Commission has invited over a hundred registered national and regional parties for consultations which will help it firm up its views on the two issues.
An apex court bench had asked the Commission to give its report on the two subjects while hearing a plea on electoral reforms. A draft Cabinet Note of the Law Ministry proposes to bar those against whom charges have been framed by a court for heinous crimes like rape, kidnapping and murder from contesting elections.
While the Law Ministry has proposed that a person against whom a court has framed charges for allegedly committing a crime carrying punishment of at least seven years should not be allowed to contest polls, the Election Commission has proposed before Supreme Court that any person charged with offences punishable with a jail term of five years or more should be barred. In its path-breaking judgement of July 10, the apex court had barred jailed people from contesting polls and providing for immediate disqualification of a convicted lawmaker.
Another proposed amendment to the RP Act says that any candidate who provides false information and concealed facts in his or her election affidavit would face a jail term of three years and automatic disqualification from contesting polls for six years. The six-year disqualification will be over and above the three-year jail term. 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.