Recently Election commission (EC) has supported a Public Interest Litigation in Supreme Court demanding a life time ban on convicted politicians from contesting elections and entering legislature. EC is of the view that such a uniform ban is in spirit of Fundamental rights of the Constitution including Right to Equality.
Present Provisions for banning convicted lawmakers
Section 8 of Representation of People Act, 1951 lays down certain rules for disqualification of MP’s and MLA’s such as:
1. Under Section 8 (1), (2) of the Act if any of the lawmakers are convicted of crimes like rape, murder, practicing Untouchability or Sati, violating Foreign Exchange Regulation Act; causing enmity over religion, language or region; indulging in electoral violations, insulting
Indian Constitution, importing and exporting banned goods, indulging in terrorist activities, etc. will be disqualified for a minimum period of six years. It is irrespective of whether they are fined or imprisoned.
2. Crimes under section 8(1) and 8(2) are related to various sections of Indian Penal Code; Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955; Prevention of Corruption Act 1988; Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, etc.
3. Moreover any lawmaker convicted of any other offence under section 8(3) and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years, he/she will be disqualified from date of conviction and further six years from the time released.
4. Section 8(4) of RPA, 1951 had provisions for convicted lawmakers to hold on to their seats provided they filed an appeal in higher court within three months of their conviction against the order of lower court. However in 2013 Lily Thomas vs. Union of India case, SC struck down section 8(4) of RPA, 1951 calling it unconstitutional.
5. Henceforth there is automatic disqualification (his/her seat becomes automatically becomes vacant) of any lawmakers if they are convicted under sections 8 (1), 8 (2) and 8 (3).
1. This will be help in Decriminalization of politics. As per Association for Democratic Reforms in 16th Lok Sabha (2014) 34% of newly elected MP’s have criminal cases filed against them. In 2009 this figure was 30%.
2. It will act as a deterrent factor in future for candidate to not indulge in criminal activities.
3. As candidates with clean background entering the legislature, common people will have more faith in Political system thereby strengthening the roots of Democracy.
1. Life-long punishment may seem disproportionate as candidate guilty of committing even minor crimes like breaking traffic rules, indulging in minor scuffling unlike heinous crimes like rape, murder, terrorism still he/she will be disqualified for life term from contesting elections.
2. There may be chances that ruling party leaders may deceitfully frame their rival leaders or genuine political activists/ innocent people to wipe out their opposition.
What can be done?
Such a lifelong ban on convicted lawmakers will go a long way in cleansing the Political system of India and serves as a confidence building measure. However care should be taken that such ban happens only for heinous crimes.
1. Vision IAS Notes
3. Siliconveer.com for Image
4. Hindustan Times