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Report No. 170

5.2. Views of different persons considered.-

The proposal to amend sub-section (1) of section 8 as mentioned above was supported by the Hon'ble Prime Minister in his inaugural address at the national seminar while taking care to clarify that mere filing of charges (chargesheet) should not be made a ground of disqualification.Shri P.A. Sangma, former Speaker, Lok Sabha did not express a specific opinion on this issue. He, however, queried what happened if a political party puts up candidates with criminal background?

Was it possible to take action against political party, he asked? Shri Dilip Padgaonkar, Editor, Times of India, in his keynote speech at the National Seminar referred to Dr. Radhakrishnan's concern about corruption expressed in 1947 and to Vohra Commttee Report. According to him, a negative process was in progress in India, namely, criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crime. He observed that Indian Society was basically tolerant of human failings and that it respected acquisition of wealth by whatever means.

He referred also to facts and figures concerning the increasing criminalisation and the increasing number of crimes committed at every succeeding election. He referred to the increasing electoral malpractices with every passing election. He pointed out that while in 1957, repoll was ordered only in 65 booths, in 1989 it was ordered in 1670 booths. He pointed out that in 1991, in Bihar alone repoll was ordered in 1046 booths and in 2173 booths in 1996.

He suggested strong measures to arrest the trend towards criminalisation of politics and elections. Shri V.R. Reddy, Senior Advocate and former Additional Solicitor General extended qualified support to the proposals of the Law Commission in this behalf. According to him, this amendment did not really provide the solution insasmuch as the police was not willing to take action against criminals because of the nexus between politicians and criminals.

5.2.1. Strong opinion were expressed by several participants at the National Seminar about the politicians taking the help of criminals not only at the time of elections but even at other times, as well as to the direct entry of criminals themselves into politics. One of the suggestions was that the antecedents and history as also the assets of each candidate at an election should be published in newspapers before their nomination was accepted.

5.2.2. Certain participants in the seminars at Bangalore and Trivandrum suggested compulsory introduction of electoral voting machines to check the role of criminals at the time of elections. It was also suggested that if a person was convicted of an electoral offence provided in the Act or in the IPC, substantial fines should be imposed upon him which should be in lakhs and commensurate with his capacity.

5.2.3. In the responses received from various persons and organisations pursuant to circulation of our working paper also, there has been a sharp difference of opinion. While some persons opposed the proposal to disqualify the persons on the basis of framing of charges, some others supported it.

One of the proposals made by one of the respondents, Shri P.V. Nam Joshi, is that if charges are framed against a candidate, the political party should itself be placed under a statutory obligation to treat him as disqualified from candidature and should not give ticket to him. Shri C.K. Jain, former Secretary-General, Lok Sabha agreed with the Law Commission and suggested that as soon as charges are framed, the person, if already a member of the House, should straightaway stand disqualified.

Certain other responses suggested that the disqualification on the ground of framing charges should be restricted only to serious offences like murder, dacoity, theft, rape and other offences involving moral turpitude and offences against the State. Certain other responses suggested inclusion of section 498A (of IPC) in the list of offences mentioned in sub-section (1).

5.2.4. Shri V.R.Krishna Iyer, an eminent jurist and former Judge of the Supreme Court strongly opposed the amendment of section 8. He opined that there should be no short-cuts nor should the State resort to any short-cuts even for achieving desirable goals.

5.2.5. All the persons who opposed the proposed amendment of section 8(1) expressed apprehension that such a provision may be taken advantage of and misused by the party in power and would seek to involve its opponents and leaders of other political parties in criminal cases just on the eve of the elections. While, it is true that the charges are framed by the court, the objectors pointed out, the charges are framed only on the basis of the material placed by the prosecution before the court. By that time, they explained, the version or the case of the accused would not have come before the court nor the prosecution witnesses would have been cross-examined.

5.2.6. We have also taken notice of the opinion of the Election Commission of India suggesting that framing of charges should form the basis for a disqualification under section 8.

Reform of The Electoral Laws Back

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