Criminals in elections

Today I got this letter from one of our Professors:

Dear Friends,

The Prime Minister and the Election Commission have expressed concern that persons with grave criminal charges may become Members of Parliament (letters dated October 27, 2006, and November 21, 2006). They have asked The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, presently considering the subject “Electoral Reforms”, to examine the matter. This Committee in turn has asked the public to send in their views on this matter before February 16, 2007. The correspondence goes to the extent of naming two persons – Abu Salem and Dawood Ibrahim – as examples of persons who might wind up in Parliament or some State Assembly. If anyone wants a copy of the communications, please let me know.

Indian Parliament on a stamp

I am putting below a short paragraph of a draft that you might like to send today itself if possible over email. I will also circulate a hard copy for those who wish to collectively express their view which we can fax by today evening. The matter has come to a head because of the large number of disclosures of criminal records in recent times as a result of the mandatory disclosure required by the Supreme Court. (A sample of Punjab and Uttaranchal, the most recent Election data last week and this week is enclosed. These states are much better off than the all India average levels of crime in politics). The suggestions below are in line with what the Election Commission, the Prime Minister, the Law Commission, and the National Committee to Review the Working of the Constitution have said on this issue. For the record, their recommendations say crimes carrying sentences of five years or more alone should attract disqualification. we are suggesting below two years or more. the reason is that the Representation of People Act disqualifies those convicted of crime carrying a sentence of two years or more. We (and the various committees mentioned earlier) are asking for disqualification even before conviction, where after due process, a competent court has framed charges and trial is in progess. the peculair situation in India is that such cases drag on for decades and the person is never convicted.

“We recommend that persons formally charged with crime carrying a sentence of two years or more by a competent Court be barred from contesting elections. The recent disclosures of the criminal charges faced by several candidates reveals that this is a reasonable restriction in the greater public interest. There are 11 Ministers and 98 Members of Parliament in the current Lok Sabha that are formally charged with some crime. At the same time, legislators who are so charged after being elected should mandatorily seek fast track disposal of their cases within six months of charges being framed. Legislators who are convicted after being elected should automatically be disqualified even if they go on appeal in a higher court. In case a person so charged six months prior to the date of elections wishes to contest, he or she can approach a competent Court asking for swift disposal of the case.”

The six months we refer to is in line with the Supreme Court directive on disclosure of pending cases where charges were framed at least six months prior to the date of elections. This is to perhaps prevent malicious framing of charges to defame a candidate just before elections.

You may like to send your suggsestions to :
Smt. Sasilekha Nair, Under Secretary, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, 528-A, Fifth Floor, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi- 110001 (Tel: 23035308, Fax: 23016784), lekha.n@sansad.xic.in (replace the x with n).

Also, the Chairman is Dr. E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, M.P. Rajya Sabha emsn@sansad.xic.in (replace the x with n), 011-23794015, 23793907, 23766540, 9868181909(M)

regards.

Now is the time for all men to come to the aid of the party. An email – that’s all it counts.

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