Report No. 244
(iii) Period of applicability
The present scheme of disqualification in Section 8(1) prescribes a time period for the duration of which the said disqualification applies. For convictions under Section 8(1) a person is disqualified for six years from conviction in case he is punished only with a fine or for the duration of the imprisonment in addition to six years starting from his date of release.
For convictions under Section 8(2) and 8(3) he is disqualified simply for the duration of his imprisonment and six years starting from the date of release. Given that disqualifications on conviction have a time period specified, it would be anomalous if disqualification on the framing of charges omitted to do so and applied indefinitely. It is thus essential that a time period be specified.
There have been various suggestions with respect to the time period for which the disqualification should remain effective. According to the JS Verma Committee and the NCRWC, disqualification should continue till acquittal. However, the 170th Report of Law Commission suggested that the applicability of disqualification should extend to 5 years from the date of framing of charge or acquittal, whichever is earlier.
In this regard, having earnestly considered many views presented, we would be inclined to make a minor modification in the proposal contained in the report of the 170th Law Commission under the Chairmanship of Justice B P Jeevan Reddy. In this report the specified period of disqualification was suggested to be five years from the date of framing of charge, or acquittal, whichever is earlier.
We find great merit in this proposal. However it must be noted that the report did not recommend a cut-off period before the election, a charge framed during which would not lead to disqualification. Thus the rationale behind the five-year period was that the charged person would at least be disqualified from contesting in one election.
This however will not be the case if a one-year cut off period is created. This is because if a person has a charged framed against him six months before an election, then he will not disqualified from this election because it is within the protected window.
At the same time, assuming that the next election is five years later (which is a standard assumption) then he will not be disqualified from the second election as well because five years from the date of framing of charge will have lapsed by then. To take into account the effect of this cut-off period, it is thus recommended that the period of disqualification is increased to six years from the date of framing of charge or acquittal whichever is earlier.
The rationale for this recommendation is clear: if a person is acquitted, needless to say the disqualification is lifted from that date. If he is not, and the trial is continuing, then the six-year period is appropriate for two reasons- first, it is long enough to ensure that the enlarged scope of disqualification has enough deterrent effect. A six-year period would at least ensure that a person will be disqualified from one election cycle thereby serving as a real safeguard against criminals entering politics.
At the same time it is the same as the period prescribed when a person is disqualified on conviction for certain offences, which such provision is comparable to. It thus has the added merit of uniformity. For these reasons, it is recommended that in the event of a charge being framed in respect of the enumerated offences against a person, he will be disqualified from contesting in elections for a period of six years from the date of framing of charge or till acquittal whichever is earlier, provided that the charge has not been framed within the protected window before an election.