The Centre has turned down a proposal from the Election Commission to stop candidates from contesting elections if they have not paid government house rent, electricity, water and power bills, PTI reported on Sunday.

The election watchdog had written to the Law Ministry in March, asking it to amend election laws to disqualify candidates from contesting Lok Sabha and Assembly polls if they do not clear public utility dues. For this, it said the Representation of the People Act would need a new clause that allows disqualification “on the ground of being a defaulter of public dues”.

In a brief response, the Law Ministry said the proposal is “not desirable”. It said agencies that issue the clearance certificates could harass prospective candidates depending on their political affiliation, the Hindustan Times reported. The ministry believes that non-payment of dues was not a grave offence, but a matter that can be dealt with under civil law.

The Election Commission made the recommendation after the Delhi High Court, in 2015, asked all candidates to clear pending dues. While hearing a Public Interest Litigation, the court asked the poll panel to ensure that candidates contesting the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls furnish a “no dues certificate” for electricity, water and telephone connections in their accommodation.

After the order, the panel made it mandatory for candidates to submit these certificates and wanted legal backing to bar people from contesting if they do not.