Electoral Reforms In India

SC moots steps to clean up politics


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Legal Provisions for disqualification mentioned in newscard

Mains level: De-criminalizing politics in India


Parties must declare antecedents

  1. The Supreme Court proposed to make political parties accountable for criminalizing politics by welcoming in crooks who may later win elections on party ticket and grab power.
  2. The Constitution Bench led by CJI suggested it could direct the EC to insist that parties get new members to declare in an affidavit their criminal antecedents and publish them.
  3. This will enable citizens to know how many criminals (charged) there are in a party.
  4. The court demonstrated that the EC could de-register a party or withdraw its symbol if it refused to comply.

Present Mechanism

  1. The court is hearing a batch of petitions to ban persons charged with heinous criminal charges from contesting elections.
  2. The law presently bars only convicted persons from fighting elections or continuing as law makers. A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
  3. The Bench has been steadfast during the past days that it cannot legislate and change the written law.

Argument against the Proposal

  1. A political party has a right to field its candidate.
  2. Mere charges of having committed a crime cannot be used to prevent a person from contesting elections.
  3. The person may have done excellent work for his constituency and the people want to vote for him and the courts suggestion amounts to prematurely disqualifying a candidate.

SC directive

  1. Political party should incorporate a clause in your membership form requiring a member to file an affidavit disclosing his criminal antecedents.
  2. Then party will publish it. If not, party may face de-registration by the Election Commission.
  3. Thus, it is as an alternative measure that the Bench suggested making the political party accountable for giving memberships to persons with a criminal record.

Legal Provisions for disqualification

  1. The Bench based its proposal on the power of the ECI to conduct an election and register/de-register political parties under Article 324 of the Constitution and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act of 1951, respectively.
  2. The court invoked The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order of 1968 to clothe the Commission with the power to withdraw a reserved party symbol.
  3. Chief Justice Misra pointed to how Section 29A requires a political party to swear to uphold the principles of socialism, secularism, democracy, sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
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