The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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House stamp on criminal clean-up
- Candidates bound to declare antecedents

New Delhi, Dec. 17: The Lok Sabha today passed a Bill requiring candidates for parliamentary or Assembly elections to disclose their criminal antecedents, if any, and declare their assets and liabilities after being elected in a major step to curb criminalisation of politics and corruption in public life.

It is likely to be passed in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow.

The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2002, stipulates that an elected candidate has to declare his assets and liabilities before the Speaker or the presiding officer of the House concerned. A nominee will be liable for penal consequences for filing a false affidavit or concealing the required information in the nomination paper.

A candidate contesting for a Parliament or Assembly seat will have to disclose whether he is accused of any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more in a pending case in which charges have been framed. He will also have to state for the information of voters whether he has been convicted in any case and handed a punishment for a year or more.

The Bill was passed by a voice vote after the statutory resolution moved by Ramjilal Suman of the Samajwadi Party and others for disapproval of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Ordinance was negated.

Winding up the debate on the Bill, minister of state for law Ravi Shankar Prasad said the “historic” legislation was brought after evolving a consensus among political parties on the amendments required in the representation of the people Act.

He said while Parliament is supreme in framing laws, the Constitution is based on a delicate balance among the executive, legislature and judiciary.

Earlier, Congress member Priya Ranjan Das Munshi had expressed concern on “over activism” of the judiciary and wanted that the supremacy of Parliament should not be interfered with in any manner.

Senior CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee said Parliament should not lose its authority to decide which laws to be framed. Making it clear that he did not mean any disrespect to the judiciary, he asked how many judges have ever contested elections.

Stating that “cosmetic” measures like the Bill will not help, Chatterjee said giving affidavits will not make any material difference in the situation during elections. He wanted a comprehensive Bill to help address the problem of money and muscle power in elections.

Turning to the Gujarat elections, he said though the Prime Minister will publicly gloat over the outcome, he will not be happy in the heart of hearts for the way it has been won.

Chatterjee and Shivraj Singh Chauhan of the BJP made a strong plea for state funding of elections.

In a sarcastic vein, Chatterjee said “people with long list of crimes are raising their voice against criminalisation of politics”.

The RJD’s Raghuvansh Prasad Singh spoke of the need for comprehensive electoral reforms. He said transparency should begin at the stage of the contest and not after he is elected. People should know the background of a candidate before voting. Judges, whether of the district courts, high courts or the Supreme Court, should also make declarations, he said, adding that it was his personal view.

Das Munshi said relatives of a judge should not be allowed to practise in the same bench as he is on.

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