LAW PANEL PROPOSES electoral SAFEGUARDS

FPJ BureauUpdated: Saturday, June 01, 2019, 03:08 PM IST
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Disqualify candidates on framing of charges, as current criteria of disqualification upon conviction is ‘incapable’ of barring criminals, it says

New Delhi : A candidate should be disqualified on framing of charges in cases punishable by five years or more, as the current criteria of disqualification upon conviction is ‘incapable’ of barring criminals from electoral politics, the law commission has recommended. The commission, in a report presented to the Supreme Court, has also recommended that filing of false affidavit should be treated as a “corrupt practice” under the Representation of the People Act, which will attract disqualification.

Enhancement of punishment for such action from the current six months with a fine to at least two years has also been recommended by the commission. In the report on disqualification of candidates and filing of false affidavits which came up in the Supreme Court today, the commission has said, “The law needs to evolve to pose an effective deterrence and to prevent subversion of the process of justice.”

It said that “disqualification upon conviction has proved to be incapable of curbing the growing criminalisation of politics, owing to long delays in trials and rare convictions.”

It said the stage of framing of charges (for an offence punishable by at least five years’ imprisonment) is based on “adequate levels of judicial scrutiny” and disqualification at the stage of charging, if  accompanied by substantial attendant legal safeguards to prevent misuse, has “significant potential” to curb the spread of criminalisation of politics.    The filing of the police report under Section 173 of CrPC is “not an appropriate stage” to introduce electoral disqualifications due to “lack of sufficient application of judicial mind at this stage,” the law panel said.

Referring to the proposed safeguards while disqualifying a candidate at the stage of framing of charges, the panel said only offences which have a maximum punishment of five years or above ought to be included within the remit of the provision.

The law commission said if charges are filed up to one year before the date of scrutiny of nominations for an election, then it will not lead to disqualification.              “The disqualification will operate till an acquittal by the trial court, or for a period of six years, whichever is earlier,” it recommended.

 For charges framed against sitting MPs/MLAs, the trial must be conducted on a day-to-day basis and concluded within one year, the commission said.

The law commission said if the trial is not concluded within a one-year period, then the MP or the MLA may be disqualified at the expiry of the one-year period or his or her right to vote in the House as a member, remuneration and other perquisites attached to their office “shall be suspended” at the expiry of the one-year period.  On the issue of filing of false disclosures in affidavits, it has recommended an enhanced sentence of a minimum of two years under Section 125A of the RP Act. It said those convicted of filing false affidavits should also stand disqualified.         –PTI

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