'Debar candidates hiding criminal charges'

Favours reforms in Representation of People Act

'Debar candidates hiding criminal charges'

The Justice Verma panel on Wednesday asked for debarring candidates from contesting elections moments after trial courts took cognizance of criminal charges of rape, bribery and promoting enmity between different groups against them.

Appealing to the conscience of politicians, the panel also said it would set a healthy precedent if all those in Parliament and state legislatures, who have any criminal case involving heinous offences pending, vacated their seats as a mark of respect to Parliament and to the Constitution.

The committee said that the reforms in the Representation of People Act were necessary to eliminate the chances of criminals entering legislature.

“Reforms are required in the Representation of People Act to deal with criminalisation of politics and to ensure true representation of people by elimination of those with criminal antecedents. This is also essential to avoid any conflict in the discharge of their legislative functions,” it said.

The panel said it was sufficient to prevent a candidate from filing his nomination papers after the trial court took cognizance of the charge sheet as the materials against him were examined by an independent authority in the form of a trial court.

“We also suggest that in the event of cognisance has been taken by a magistrate of an offence mentioned in Section 8[1] of RP Act, the candidate ought to be disqualified from participating in the electoral process.

We further suggest that Section 8[1] of RP Act be amended and should include all heinous offences as suggested,” the panel said. Section 8(1) of the RP Act listed offences of promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, rape and dowry harassment provisions and others.

It also favoured strict verification of the affidavit submitted by the candidates in the poll.

“Having regard to the fact that there is no verification of the affidavits which are filed by candidates under Section 33A of the RP Act, we have suggested amendments to the said section requiring the making of a declaration about the pendency of any criminal case, whether cognizance has been taken of it.

A certificate from the registrar of HC should be necessary for the validity of the nomination,” the panel said. The committee said that a candidate who failed to disclose a charge or commission of an offence should be disqualified subsequently.

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