New Delhi : The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill to amend the Representation of People Act to allow a person in police custody to file nomination to fight an election.

 The house passed The Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013 with a voice vote.  Replying to the debate on the bill, Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the political class has furthered the process of accountability but an environment prevailed where it is looked upon with suspicion.  “We need to address the issue,” he said.

He said right to vote and right to be on electoral rolls were statutory rights.  He said provision was being added to the RPA that a person who may not be entitled to vote can still file his nomination papers.  The amendments have been brought in view of a Supreme Court judgment upholding an order of Patna High Court that a person who has no right to vote is not qualified to contest the election to parliament or state assembly.  The government has already filed a review petition in the court.  Earlier, moving the bill, Sibal said courts were “enthusiastic to prove” politicians as criminals due to general perception in society.  He said the judgment concerning election of MPs was “erroneous” and the judiciary must be careful when the issue was of the entire polity of the country.

“There is general perception that all of us sitting here are criminals… Courts are enthusiastic to prove us to be so, even if we are not so,” Sibal said.Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ravishankar Prasad (BJP) urged the minister to show restraint in his choice of words. Sibal said he had the greatest respect for the judiciary. “We maintain our sense of discipline,” he said.

The law minister said the verdict of a court to bar people in lawful custody from contesting elections was “clearly erroneous”. “We are fallible, we make mistakes and the judges can also commit mistakes,” he said.  “Just as we are exceptionally careful, the judiciary must also be exceptionally careful,” he said.

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