The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 29 , 2014
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Law panel readies for poll reforms debate

New Delhi, Jan. 28: Key proposals relating to poll reforms, such as the possible disqualification of chargesheeted candidates or those who file false affidavits, will receive a hearing at a Law Commission of India event here on Saturday.

Also under the scanner will be issues such as state funding of elections, curbs on “paid news”, and a possible ban on candidates contesting the same election from multiple seats. (See chart)

On all these matters, the law panel wants “as many and as varied… inputs from various stakeholders as possible”, said its chairperson, Justice Ajit Prakash Shah.

A nudge from the Union law ministry had led to the decision to hold the “national consultation on electoral reforms”, Shah said.

A former law panel chief, Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, will inaugurate the event at 10.30am on February 1.

The commission has invited suggestions from all stakeholders and will send a report on the discussions’ outcome to the Supreme Court by the second week of April.

While dealing with a public interest petition recently, the apex court had observed that “the issues with regard to criminalisation of politics and disqualification for filing false affidavits deserve priority and immediate consideration”. It had directed the Law Commission to speed up the process.

There have been suggestions to set up an independent body, on the lines of a quasi-judicial tribunal, that will deal with issues relating to disqualification of candidates, Shah said.

He said “paid news… is affecting the vitals of our democratic polity. It is believed that the present institutional set-up lacks teeth to curtail this malpractice”.

“There is also a view that the news channels owned or controlled by the political parties or candidates or vested interests engage in prejudiced reporting that affects free and fair elections,” Shah said.

“This concern needs consideration, keeping in view the right to free speech and expression in the context of elections.”