Report No. 244
VII. Recommendations and Proposed Sections
A. Conclusions and Recommendations
In light of the above discussions, the Law Commission makes the following recommendations on the two issues considered in this report in accordance with the directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in its order dated 16th December, 2013 in Public Interest Foundation & Ors. v. Union of India and Anr, (W/P Civil No. 536 of 2011):
I. Whether disqualification should be triggered upon conviction as it exists today or upon framing of charges by the court or upon the presentation of the report by the Investigating Officer under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure? [Issue No. 3.1(ii) of the Consultation Paper]
1. Disqualification upon conviction has proved to be incapable of curbing the growing criminalisation of politics, owing to long delays in trials and rare convictions. The law needs to evolve to pose an effective deterrence, and to prevent subversion of the process of justice.
2. The filing of the police report under Section 173 Cr.PC is not an appropriate stage to introduce electoral disqualifications owing to the lack of sufficient application of judicial mind at this stage.
3. The stage of framing of charges is based on adequate levels of judicial scrutiny, and disqualification at the stage of charging, if accompanied by substantial attendant legal safeguards to prevent misuse, has significant potential in curbing the spread of criminalisation of politics.
4. The following safeguards must be incorporated into the disqualification for framing of charges owing to potential for misuse, concern of lack of remedy for the accused and the sanctity of criminal jurisprudence:
i. Only offences which have a maximum punishment of five years or above ought to be included within the remit of this provision.
ii. Charges filed up to one year before the date of scrutiny of nominations for an election will not lead to disqualification.
iii. The disqualification will operate till an acquittal by the trial court, or for a period of six years, whichever is earlier.
iv. For charges framed against sitting MPs/ MLAs, the trials must be expedited so that they are conducted on a day-to-day basis and concluded within a 1-year period. If trial not concluded within a one year period then one of the following consequences ought to ensue:
- The MP/ MLA may be disqualified at the expiry of the one-year period; or
- The MP/ MLA's right to vote in the House as a member, remuneration and other perquisites attaching to their office shall be suspended at the expiry of the one-year period.
5. Disqualification in the above manner must apply retroactively as well. Persons with charges pending (punishable by 5 years or more) on the date of the law coming into effect must be disqualified from contesting future elections, unless such charges are framed less than one year before the date of scrutiny of nomination papers for elections or the person is a sitting MP/MLA at the time of enactment of the Act. Such disqualification must take place irrespective of when the charge was framed.
II. Whether filing of false affidavits under Section 125A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 should be a ground for disqualification? And if yes, what mode and mechanism needs to be provided for adjudication on the veracity of the affidavit? [Issue No. 3.5 of the Consultation Paper]"
1. There is large-scale violation of the laws on candidate affidavits owing to lack of sufficient legal consequences. As a result, the following changes should be made to the RPA:
i. Introduce enhanced sentence of a minimum of two years under Section 125A of the RPA Act on offence of filing false affidavits.
ii. Include conviction under Section 125A as a ground of disqualification under Section 8(1) of the RPA.
iii. Include the offence of filing false affidavit as a corrupt practice under Section 123 of the RPA.
2. Since conviction under Section 125A is necessary for disqualification under Section 8 to be triggered, the Supreme Court may be pleased to order that in all trials under Section 125A, the relevant court conducts the trial on a day-to-day basis
3. A gap of one week should be introduced between the last date for filing nomination papers and the date of scrutiny, to give adequate time for the filing of objections to nomination papers.