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SC seeks views on cleansing politics

New Delhi, Dec. 16: The Supreme Court today asked the law commission to give its views on disqualifying elected representatives who file false affidavits or have been chargesheeted or against whom charges have been framed in criminal offences.

The apex court said it would “appreciate” it if the law commission submits its report as expeditiously as possible, preferably by end- February next year.

The government, on receipt of the report, should place a copy before the court by March second week for further directions, a bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and Shiv Kirti Singh said.

The bench passed the order on a PIL filed by the Public Interest Litigation Foundation which had sought disqualification of all candidates chargesheeted in serious criminal cases or against whom charges have been framed by a competent court.

The Election Commission, through its counsel Meenakshi Arora, told the apex court that apart from seeking disqualification of candidates against whom charges have been framed six months prior to an election, it was also in favour of disqualifying candidates filing false affidavits.

Arora told the bench that under the present rules the poll panel had to launch criminal proceedings against a candidate for filing a false affidavit. “But it is a long-drawn process and it is difficult to get a candidate convicted with our limited resources.”

She referred to an affidavit filed by the panel in which it sought that any candidate found filing a false affidavit under Section 125A of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) should be automatically disqualified.

Under Section 125A, it is mandatory for every candidate contesting an election to disclose truthfully whether he or she is facing or convicted of any criminal charge.

Appearing for the government, additional solicitor-general Paras Kuhad said the Centre was also keen on revamping electoral laws to weed out undesirable candidates.

He said although the government had requested the law commission to submit a comprehensive report in mid-January this year, it had not been able to do so yet.

Following this, Justice Lodha asked the law commission to come out with its views on the two issues.

“Whether disqualification should be followed upon conviction as it exists today or upon framing of charges by the court or upon filing of a report by the investigating officer under section 173 of the CrPC (chargesheet).

“Whether filing of a false affidavit under Section 125A of the RPA, 1951, should be a ground for disqualification. If so, what should be the mode or mechanism for adjudication of the affidavit. The law commission would also consider the consultation report submitted by the EC in this regard,” the apex court said.