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SC poll reforms date

New Delhi, Aug. 29: The Supreme Court has fixed September 16 for hearing a public interest litigation asking for a directive to the Centre to implement the apex court’s order on electoral reforms.

Umed Singh Gulia, a practising lawyer in the apex court, had contended in his petition that the all-party meeting and the subsequent draft Bill rejecting almost all the directives of the Supreme Court resulted in “abuse” of the court “publicly”.

The apex court had asked the Centre in May to declare that all candidates contesting elections should reveal their criminal records, assets and liabilities and educational qualifications with school and college/university certificates at the time of filing of nominations.

The court said voters should know who they were electing. The rule would equally apply to all candidates from panchayat- and municipality-levels to the Assembly and the Lok Sabha.

The Election Commission accordingly modified its rules under Article 324 of the Constitution and said the candidates should comply with the directives of the court.

However, the Centre called an all-party meet that unanimously rejected the directives. Union law minister Jana Krishnamurthi argued that “only Parliament” could frame laws and brought a draft poll reforms Bill, which did not include any of the three contentious directives of the court.

The draft Bill was not introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament as it ended abruptly. But the government brought a presidential Ordinance. President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam returned the Ordinance, asking why the three contentious directives should not be implemented. But the Cabinet sent it back to him, leaving the President with no option but to sign.

The public interest litigation filed by Gulia said: “Parliament cannot enact a law which is against the fundamental rights of the electorate and in the present case, the right to information about the criminal antecedents of candidates contesting election is fundamental.”

The PIL also contended that the draft Bill and the Ordinance “must be stopped” from being introduced in Parliament as the House could not enact a law on the matter.

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