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Lifetime Ban on Convicted Netas: SC Wants Clear Stand from Election Commission

The apex court questioned the EC why it can’t take a clear stand on the public interest litigation (PIL) which seeks lifetime ban on convicted netas.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:July 12, 2017, 1:24 PM IST
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Lifetime Ban on Convicted Netas: SC Wants Clear Stand from Election Commission
Election Commission of India (Photo: Umesh Sharma, News18)
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has pulled up Election Commission of India for not coming clear on the lifetime ban on politicians who have been convicted in criminal cases.

The apex court questioned the EC why it can’t take a clear stand on the public interest litigation (PIL) which seeks lifetime ban on convicted netas.

It observed that the EC was trying to avoid clarifying its stand on the issue.

In its statement before the court, the EC said it stood for the decriminalization of politics. However, the Commission didn’t categorically say that it supported life-time ban on convicted politicians.

"Can you afford to remain silent?" a bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi questioned EC’s counsel after he submitted that the Commission was not taking any stand in the matter.

The government, in its affidavit, submitted that there were adequate provisions in the Representation of the People Act (RPA) to deal with disqualification of convicted persons and no further stipulation on this subject was called for.

“The provisions (in RPA) involved are intra-vires and have been in the statute book for quite some time and continue to serve the purpose for which these are enacted i.e. curbing the entry of persons with criminal antecedents into political arena,” the government said in its affidavit.

It pointed out that a constitutional court could step in only when there was legislative vacuum in an area of public interest but since there were already subsisting legal provisions, the issue was “outside the scope of judicial review”.

On the other hand, the EC, in its affidavit filed in March, had regretted that that its proposals for electoral reforms and decriminalisation of politics remain pending before the government.

The EC supported in Supreme Court a demand to bar convicted politicians for life from contesting polls.

It had submitted before the court that the plea made by PIL petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay is “not adversarial” in seeking directives for ensuring that trials of MPs and MLAs are concluded within a year and that such convicts are prohibited for life from the political process. “…the answering respondent (EC) supports the cause espoused by the petitioner,” stated the affidavit, filed by EC Director Vijay Kumar Pandey.

| Edited by: Puja Menon
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