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  India   All India  19 Apr 2017  Poll ban for life on criminals? Supreme Court will decide

Poll ban for life on criminals? Supreme Court will decide

Published : Apr 19, 2017, 1:06 am IST
Updated : Apr 19, 2017, 1:06 am IST

The court has indicated that a five-judge Constitution bench will adjudicate these issues.

Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)
 Supreme Court of India (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will examine whether convicted persons can be debarred from conesting polls for ever. It will also examine whether a person facing a criminal case in a heinous crime can be disqualified from contesting Assembly or Parliamentary elections at the stage of filing chargesheet or framing of charges or only after conviction.

A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha posted the petition filed by Delhi BJP spokesperson Ashiwini Kumar Upadhyay, who sought a permanent bar on convicted persons from contesting polls, for final hearing in July. He also wanted special courts to be set up in each state to dispose of these cases within one year. The issue, raised in a PIL by Public Interest Foundation in 2011, was referred to the Law Commission of India. In its report, the Commission said “disqualification upon conviction has proved to be incapable of curbing the growing criminalisation politics, owing to long delays in trials and rare convictions. The law needs to evolve to pose an effective deterrence, and to prevent subversion of the process of justice.” The court has indicated that a five-judge Constitution bench will adjudicate these issues.

The Commission said the filing of the police report under Section 173  of  the CrPC (chargesheet) is not an appropriate stage to introduce electoral disqualifications owing to the lack of sufficient application of judicial mind at this stage.

The stage of framing of charges 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 in curbing the spread of criminalisation of politics.

The Election Commission said as early as in 1997 the then Chief Election Commissioner wrote to the then Prime Minister recommending that oncecharges were framed in a case, the disqualification was attracted as at that stage there was application of judicial mind to the charges. It said those against whom charges were framed and those against whom any Commission of Inquiry had given a finding of guilt of the charges should be barred from contesting elections; these cases should be decided by the trial courts within six months; to prevent misuse only those cases pending six months prior to the declaration of elections would be considered for such disqualification.

The Centre had taken the stand that it was considering the EC’s recommendations and its anxiety was such a provision would be misused. It said the Parliament in its wisdom would consider the parliamentary standing committee’s report which had rejected the recommendations of the EC and the Law Commission to bar those against whom charges were framed from contesting elections.

Tags: supreme court, criminal case, election commission
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi