National News

Election Commission favours barring convicts from contesting polls for life

The polling monitor said in an affidavit that special courts should decide on criminal cases against people’s representatives and public servants.

The Election Commission of India on Monday told the Supreme Court that it supported the idea of disallowing convicts from contesting elections for life and barring their entry into the judiciary and legislatures. The polling monitor also said that special courts should be set up to decide on criminal cases against people’s representatives, public servants and members of the judiciary.

The EC made these points in an affidavit filed in the top court in connection with a petition filed by Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhaya. The petitioner had sought the establishment of special courts for trials of criminal cases against public servants.

The commission said the points Upadhaya had raised were “not adversarial”, and it “supports the cause espoused by the petitioner”. However, with regard to fixing a minimum qualification and age limit for legislators, the EC said the matter would need an amendment to the Constitution.

The news comes days after the National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms found that an average of one in four of the newly-elected legislators in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly has criminal cases against them. As many as 143 (36%) of the 403 elected MLAs declared criminal cases against them in their affidavits. During the 2012 state elections, 189 (47%) of the MLAs faced criminal cases.

Of the 690 MLAs elected in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa – the five states that went to the polls recently – 140 legislators (20%) face serious criminal charges like murder, kidnapping and extortion. While the number of MLAs with criminal records declined in three of the five states, the number of MLAs with serious criminal charges increased in all states, barring Manipur.

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