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EC backs lifetime ban on convicted lawmakers

NEW DELHI, March 21, 2017, DHNS 1:23 IST
The poll panel maintained that most of its recommendations have been approved by the Law Commission in its 244th and 255th reports.

The poll panel maintained that most of its recommendations have been approved by the Law Commission in its 244th and 255th reports.

The Election Commission has supported before the Supreme Court the demand for a lifetime ban on candidates convicted in criminal cases from contesting polls.

As of now, convicts are debarred from contesting elections for six years after serving their sentences. The poll panel made its stand clear in an affidavit to a PIL filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.

The EC said it is “alive to the issues that concern the conduct of free and fair elections and functioning of healthy democracy” and is “asserting for bringing in electoral reforms which further the cause of free and fair elections”. It said it has already submitted detailed proposals for electoral reforms, which include decriminalisation of politics, making bribery a cognisable offence, prohibiting advertisements during the 48 hours before polling and banning paid news.

The poll panel maintained that most of its recommendations have been approved by the Law Commission in its 244th and 255th reports.

However, some of the reforms are pending consideration by the Union government or have not been approved for the time being. On Upadhyay’s plea to debar convicts for life from contesting elections, the poll panel said, “The prayer made by the PIL petitioner is not adversarial and the EC supports the cause espoused by the petitioner.”

On fixing a maximum age and a minimum educational qualification criteria, it said the issue is in the legislative domain and would require amendment to the Constitution.

The petitioner pointed out that in the executive and the judiciary, a person convicted of any criminal offence is automatically suspended and debarred from service for life. But this rule is applied differently in the case of a convicted person in the legislature.

“Even after conviction and undergoing sentence, a convicted person can form his own political party and is eligible to become the office-bearer of any political party. In addition, a convicted person is eligible to contest the election and eligible to become a member of the legislature and even minister after expiry of a six-year period from the date of conviction,” the plea said.

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