SC Seeks Centre’s Response on PIL to Debar Charge Sheeted Candidates from Fighting Polls

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NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to Centre on a PIL seeking to debar all those persons, against whom charges have been framed, from contesting election, as per the Law Commission’s report.

The plea, filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, sought direction to the Centre and the Election Commission to take steps to debar persons, against whom charges have been framed in serious offences, from contesting elections.

It contended that on February 2, 2014, the Law Commission submitted its 244th report on decriminalisation of politics, but Centre did nothing. Later, it submitted a report on electoral reform and suggested steps for electoral and democratic reforms, but the Centre did nothing on it too, it added.

After hearing arguments from Upadhyay, a bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy sought a response from Law and Justice and Home ministries, and the Election Commission.

The plea sought a direction to the Election Commission to use its plenary power conferred under Article 324, to amend the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order 1968, to insert such a condition (restriction) for the contestants.

“There is an increase of 44 per cent in the number of MPs with declared criminal cases since 2009. Similarly, 159 (29 per cent) winners in Lok Sabha 2019 Elections have declared serious criminal cases including cases related to rape, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, crimes against women etc,” said the plea.

It further added that out of 542 winners analysed during Lok Sabha elections in 2014, 112 (21 percent) winners had declared serious criminal cases against themselves. Out of 543 winners analysed during Lok Sabha elections in 2009, 76 (14 percent) winners had declared serious criminal cases against themselves. “There is an increase of 109 per cent in the number of MPs with declared serious criminal cases since 2009,” added the plea.

The petitioner argued that consequences of permitting criminals to contest elections and become legislators were extremely serious for democracy and secularism.

“The injury caused to people at large because criminalisation of politics is at extreme level and political parties still setting-up candidates with serious criminal antecedents,” added the plea.

It further argued that raising the threshold to the stage of framing of charges, the chances would be considerably reduced of false cases being maliciously foisted on the candidates. The plea added that the police have filed its charge sheet to prosecute the accused and the court has applied its mind to the police report.

“The plea added that the additional protection envisaged by the Law Commission in its 244th report is that charges should have been framed at least one year before the scrutiny of nominations. During this period, candidates could also apply to the High Court under Section 482 of the CrPC or under Article 226 for quashing of the charges against him,” said the plea, adding that it would only deter political parties from giving tickets to criminals. — IANS

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