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Cabinet push for six-year poll bar on convicts

New Delhi, Oct. 4: The Union Cabinet today decided to bar people convicted of heinous crimes such as murder or rape from contesting elections during their jail term and six years after their release.

A Bill to amend the Representation of People’s Act, to be brought in the winter session of Parliament, will include fresh offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act for the purpose.

Information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj said after the Cabinet meeting that the Act was being amended to correct a major anomaly under which a person sentenced to more than six years in prison could be eligible to contest polls while serving punishment in jail.

The decision followed a consensus reached at an all-party meeting on electoral reforms convened by the government, she said.

“With the changes in the law, a person convicted by the judiciary will not be able to fight elections during his prison term and six years thereafter,” Swaraj said.

Even if a person convicted of heinous offences is only fined, he would stand disqualified from contesting polls for a period of six years from the date of conviction under the amended Act.

Under Section 8 (1) of the Act, a person convicted of heinous offences like murder and rape would stand disqualified for six years from the date of his conviction.

Under Section 8 (2), economic and social offences have been listed for which a person shall be disqualified from the date of conviction and shall continue to be debarred for a further period of six years since his release if he is sentenced to imprisonment for not less than six months.

In Section 8 (3), the offences which are not covered under sub-sections (1) and (2) have been included so that a person is disqualified from the date of his conviction and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of six years after his release if he is sentenced to a jail term of not less than two years.

“To bring more serious offences (like murder and rape), contained in Section 8 (1) at par with offences in Section 8 (2) and (3) for the purposes of disqualification, it is proposed that Section 8 (1) be revised so that new offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002, could be included therein,” Swaraj said.

Asked what the significance of the six-year period of disqualification was, Swaraj said that keeping in view the five-year term of the Lok Sabha and Assemblies, the lawmakers wanted to bar a person convicted of serious offences like murder from contesting for two consecutive elections.

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