Has the SC missed a chance to keep criminals out of polls?

Has the SC missed a chance to keep criminals out of polls?
Article:
1. Author Anuradha Raman, has collected different views on decriminalization of Indian Politics.
Important Analysis:
2. Supreme Court in recent judgement has refrained itself from debarring politicians facing serious criminal offence from contesting poll and left it to parliament.
3. According to S.Y Qureshi, a former Chief Election Commissioner of India, the verdict of SC is disappointing because:

  • Court cannot play the role of parliament and according to Article 102(1) of the Constitution, Parliament is obliged to make a law on the matter.
  • Political parties need to put information about candidates having criminal antecedents but the issue is accessibility of website by people.
  • Important question is why the political party will publish information which is against their interest.
  • Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, bans convicted politicians from contesting. However, those facing trial, no matter how serious the charges, are free to contest.
  • Election Commission has proposed to bar the candidate accused of an offence however it is opposed by many as they cited the law of land which says everyone to be innocent until proven guilty or convicted.

4. According to him the safeguard provided by Election commission is clear which says:

  • Only those concerned with heinous offences like rape, dacoity, murder and kidnapping will invite ban and case should be registered at least six months before the elections.
  • And since contesting elections is not a fundamental but a statutory, it can be denied.

5. According to Rajiv Gowda, is a Congress MP and Chairman, AICC Research Department, the verdict is in line with the principles of natural justice and separation of powers.

  • According to him the court order to disqualify candidates charged with crimes (as opposed to those convicted) would require an amendment to the Representation of the People Act.
  • And this is the domain of the legislature and thus it is Parliament that should take action not Supreme Court.
  • Disqualifying persons from contesting elections at the stage of framing of charges is against the natural Justice.
  • Public officials are judged by a higher standard as compared to common citizen.
  • Politicians, the moment they are convicted and sentenced to more than two years in jail by a lower court, lose their seats and are debarred from contesting for some period.
  • If Parliament does not act, other options are: political parties can choose to not give tickets to aspirants charged with heinous crimes and voters can reject such candidates at the polls.
  • Court already has mandated that such information be prominently displayed so that voters get a chance to make an “informed choice”.
  • Structural issues need to be addressed such as measure of public funding of elections which will also enable cleaner candidates into the politics.

6. In the opinion on P.D.T. Acharya who was the former secretary-general has doubt over the supreme court order because.

  • Supreme Court order may not have deterrent effect.
  • Conflict between Law Commission and the Election Commission recommendation and The Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951.
  • EC says candidates who have committed heinous crimes like rape and murder, and against whom charges are being framed, should be disqualified and Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951 says that only those convicted of crimes mentioned in the act are barred from contesting elections.
  • The job of the legislature is to make laws and the judiciary is tasked to interpret the laws. It is not the job of the judiciary to formulate legislation.
  • Supreme Court order to display the criminal records in Newspaper and in electronic media can also be subject to misuse and it can also be deployed against candidate.
  • According to him, Disqualification of a candidate at the time of the framing of charges will be a reasonable solution, however, it is Parliament, not the Supreme Court, which is the constitutional authority, to proceed in this matter.
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