Why the silence on convicted politicos, SC asks EC

Why the silence on convicted politicos, SC asks EC

Why the silence on convicted politicos, SC asks EC
The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Election Commission for being “silent” on a plea for debarring convicted politicians from contesting elections for life.

A convict under the Representation of People Act is debarred from contesting polls for a period of six years, after serving his or her sentence.

The apex court asked if the Election Commission despite being an independent constitutional authority can denude itself from independent thinking and feel constrained by the legislatures from expressing its views.

“If a civil servant is convicted, he is debarred from service for life. Why a politician for six-year only? Why not life-long ban,” a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha asked a counsel, appearing for the poll panel.

As the counsel contended that the Election Commission has supported the plea for decriminalisation of politics, the bench asked, “We understand that you have sent your recommendations to the Union government on electoral reforms. But what is your stand on this specific issue?”

On this, the counsel maintained that the particular issue fell under the legislative domain. “We are not competent authority in this mattter,” he submitted, seeking more time to clarify the stand of the poll panel.

“You are Election Commission of India. You are silent on life ban for politicians. Can you afford to remain silent? Is silence an option? There is a citizen of India who is saying debar politicians for life long,” the bench asked.

“Can you denude yourself from the power of independent thinking? Do you want to constrain yourself to what the legislatures say,” the bench further asked.

In an affidavit to a PIL filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the poll panel said it is “alive to the issues and as such asserting for bringing in electoral reforms which further the cause of free and fair elections.”

With regard to the plea for debarring the convicts for life from contesting elections, the Commission had said, “the prayer is not adversarial and the EC supports the cause espoused by the petitioner”.

Upadhyay has pointed out in the Executive and Judiciary, when a person is convicted for any criminal offence, he/she is suspended automatically and debarred from his services for life. However, this rule is applied differently in case of convicted person in a legislature, he added.
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