Aiming to “bring purity in elections”, the Supreme Court Monday questioned the government on steps it intends to take to bar people charged with heinous crimes or found guilty by a commission of inquiry from becoming lawmakers.
“The objective is to bring purity in elections. We have to take care that the process is not misused. We want to ensure that criminals do not enter legislative bodies. But it has to come by legislation,” said an apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice Madan B. Lokur.
Giving the government six weeks, the court took note of the proposals by the Election Commission and the Law Commission on keeping criminals away from elected bodies.
Hearing a public interest litigation, the court said: “Having regard to the issue raised in the writ petition, it is necessary that union Of India be given one more opportunity to give response.”
Petitioner NGO Public Interest Foundation, represented by senior counsel Dinesh Dwivedi, sought a direction to the execution in case a law on the issue was not enacted.
“How can the court interfere?” Justice Lodha asked Dwivedi.
Dwivedi said: “Politicians are ganging up. They will not implement it”, adding the “union of India does not want to take a stand. It is now two years since notice was issued” to it.
Additional Solicitor General Paras Kuhad said: “The centre has examined the issue. It had examined the proposal by the Election Commission and the Law Commission in its 170th report. The parliamentary standing committee had rejected it.”
Advocating a balanced approach, Justice Lodha said: “We need a balanced approach. We don’t say that this provision will not be abused.”
“Once a charge is framed in a heinous crime, the person should be disqualified from contesting elections,” said Election Commission’s counsel Meenakshi Arora.
At the stage of framing of charges, there is application of judicial mind, she said.
She told the court that in 1997, the chief election commissioner had written to the prime minister and sent 22 proposals to cleanse politics of criminals.
The commission told the court that as a safeguard, all those who were accused of heinous crimes six months prior to the announcement of election would not be affected by the proposed disqualification.