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NDA for electoral reforms

After the passage of the National Judicial Appointments Commission, the NDA government is considering bringing in major electoral reforms that may bar a candidate from contesting polls if a chargesheet has been filed against him in a court for heinous crimes. 

The government is awaiting word from the Law Commission which is finalising its report on electoral reforms. The Commission has decided to call a stakeholders meeting, likely in October, before giving its recommendations for amendments in the Representation of People Act that govern elections to assemblies and parliament.

Among issues under consideration of the law panel is a proposal to ban a candidate from contesting from more than one constituency. In the last parliamentary elections PM candidate Narendra Modi had contested from Vadodara in Gujarat and Varanasi in UP both of which he had won. Among others, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav too had contested from two seats in UP and had won both of them. 

The Commission believes conducting byelections for seats vacated by these leaders imposes an extra burden on the exchequer. Besides it crowds the poll fray denying a level playing field to other candidates who may not be able to afford contesting a second time. 

The Law Commission is strongly backing disqualification of candidates against whom a court has framed charges for serious offences like rape and murder. In its opinion given earlier this year to the Supreme Court, the law panel had said such candidates against whom charges have been framed in heinous crimes, should be disqualified from contesting elections.

The apex court has kept the case sub-judice with an interim order saying trials against lawmakers facing serious charges should be completed in a time-bound period of one year.

The Law Commission had in February this year called a stakeholders meeting but major parties like the BJP, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party had not attended the meet. Law Commission Chairman Justice A P Shah, during an interaction with TOI, had said that criminal elements have the potential to subvert the judicial process if they are allowed to be elected to parliament or assemblies. “As a result you can see trials are delayed for several years and that is the reason why the rate of conviction is less,” Shah had observed. 

“Even after the Lily Thomas judgment of the Supreme Court (which struck down Sec 8(4) of the RP Act disqualifying a convicted MP/MLA from membership of the House) there has been only three disqualifications so far,” he explained, observing how the number of lawmakers facing serious criminal charges is frighteningly high. More than 160 MPs in the last Lok Sabha were those who had serious criminal charges against them.

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