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The Mother India

  A Home page to achieve Electoral reforms, true democracy & citizens sovereignty in India



Stage set for massive electoral reforms

New Delhi, June 26: With neither the Election Commission nor the government prepared to seek extension of the July 1 deadline for implementing the SC directives on electoral reforms, including an criminal antecedents of candidates, the stage is now set for their implementation.

Sources in the government on Wednesday made it clear that it would not be seeking extension of the deadline as the directions were given to the EC. The Centre, which has convened an all-party meeting on July 8 to discuss the directions given by the apex court and examine what kind of legislative measures be taken, had requested the Commission to seek an extension of the deadline.

Rejecting government's request, the EC wrote to the Centre saying the latter should seek extension of the deadline from the Supreme Court. Now the two-month time given by the Supreme Court for the implementation of the directives comes to an end on July 1.

The court, to make the electorate aware of candidates' antecedents, had asked the EC to frame guidelines within two months to make it mandatory for persons contesting Parliamentary and Assembly elections to give an affidavit details of criminal cases against him - past and present, assets of his, his spouse and dependants, liabilities and educational qualification.

According to sources in the government, the directions were given to the EC and it was for the Commission to implement them in the best possible manner. "The government would go ahead with the scheduled July 8 all-party meeting to discuss the practicality of the apex court directives to the EC," they said adding "after all the directives were given to the EC and not to the Centre."



All-party meet rejects EC’s poll proposals


Tuesday, July 09, 2002

New Delhi, July 8: An all party meeting convened by the Vajpayee government on Monday rejected the Election Commission's move to implement the Supreme Court directives on checking the antecedents of candidates.

The EC proposal makes it mandatory for candidates to furnish details of their criminal antecedents, assets and liabilities and educational qualification.

The parties asked the government to bring out a comprehensive legislation to curb criminalisation of politics and bring in probity in public life.

"There was unanimity among political parties that such a move could be politically misused," senior BJP leader V.K. Malhotra told reporters after a three-hour long meeting convened by Law Minister Jana Krishnamurthy to assess the implications of the EC move.

Malhotra said that under EC guidelines, any revenue officer had the power to reject the nomination of a candidate which would lead to misuse of the proposal.

Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee said that it was felt at the meeting that "we must have a law (on tackling criminalisation of politics) and it should not be left to the directives of the judiciary or any other constitutional authority".

The Congress leader also said that the government has accepted the suggestions of political parties for bringing forward a legislation to replace the EC guidelines after thoroughly scrutinising them. "This was the unanimous view of political parties," he added.

Earlier, Malhotra quoted Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani as telling the all party meeting on electoral reforms that the entire issue should be looked at in a pragmatic manner and practical steps be taken to achieve these goals.

Advani said the government appreciated the concerns of the Supreme Court in regard to checking criminalisation of the politics.


Order will remain in force despite all-party's rejection: EC

New Delhi, July 8: The Election Commission on Monday said its order requiring candidates to dislcose their criminal antecedents while filing nomination papers will remain in force despite an all-party meeting rejecting the move.

"The affidavit is in position. The Commission is only following a Supreme Court directive," EC sources said. Prescribing the affidavit, the Commission had made it clear on June 20 that non-furnishing of full and complete information by a candidate would be considered violative of the Court's directive.

The sources said the Commission had turned down a request by the Government to seek a fresh directive from the apex court on the issue since it was going to hold an all-party meeting to discuss the matter.

The government had made the request when the Commission had informed it about the court order and said that the affidavit should form part of the nomination papers, the sources observed.

The Commission told the government that it was bound by the court directive to prescribe the affidavit before the July 1 deadline, they added.



Criminalisation of politics: Govt plans Bill


Wednesday, July 10, 2002

New Delhi, July 9: A day after the all-party meeting refused to endorse the Election Commission's notification on electoral reforms, the Law Ministry on Tuesday began drafting a Bill to curb criminalisation of politics.

A high-level meeting was called by the Law Minister Jana Krishnamurthy to discuss the ways and means to incorporate various suggestions given by political parties at Monday’s meeting, sources in the Ministry said.

It was decided at Tuesday’s meeting that the "laudable" intention behind the judgement given by the Supreme Court on May 2 would be respected, they said. However, keeping in view the practical difficulties in implementing the Supreme Court directives, provisions would be made in the draft Bill to achieve the objective of curbing criminalisation of politics, the sources said.

The Election Commission had said that candidates failing to make a true disclosure of their criminal antecedents, assets and liabilities and educational qualification would be disqualified from contesting Parliamentary and state Assembly elections.

The drafting of the Bill would be complete in the next two days and then would be circulated among all political parties for their views, the sources said. After getting their views, if needed, another all-party meeting could be convened to give final shape to the Bill before its introduction in the monsoon session of Parliament, they said.



Parties agree to disagree with EC rules

Law to be brought in to curb returning officers’ powers


NEW DELHI, July 8: United by their fear of new powers assumed by the Election Commission to screen candidates, political parties across the ideological spectrum decided today to counter a Supreme Court judgment with legislation in Parliament.
The decision to bring the Bill in the monsoon session was taken at an all party-meeting. It was called originally to discuss the EC’s proposal of amending statutory rules and the format of nomination papers to give effect to the Supreme Court judgment of May 2 mandating candidates to disclose their criminal antecedents, if any, as well as financial and educational background.



• EC: Candidates have to disclose all criminal cases
Political parties: Exemption from disclosing cases booked for political activities
• All candidates have to disclose their assets
Only winning candidates should be required to do so, that too to the presiding officer of the House to which they are elected
• Compulsory disclosure of educational qualifications
Not at all
• Returning officers empowered to reject the nominations of those who do not make the stipulated disclosures or give false or incomplete information
They can have no power to check whether the information is false or incomplete

But since the meeting was held after the July 1 deadline set by the Supreme Court, its agenda shifted to the EC order issued on June 28 prescribing a fresh affidavit for candidates and, what is even more radical, empowering returning officers to reject the nominations of those who do not make the required disclosures or give false or incomplete information.

This order will remain in force till the proposed Bill is passed by both Houses of Parliament.

At the meeting, presided over by Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, party representatives took barely three hours to decide that returning officers should be divested of these ‘‘wide powers’’ given to them by the EC.

As BJP representative V K Malhotra put it, the participants apprehended that this additional power to returning officers, who are otherwise full-time revenue officers, was liable to be ‘‘politically misused.’’ It was felt that in the one day that returning officers get to screen nominations, it will not be possible for them to check whether the information for all candidates is false or incomplete.

Others agreed with this, too. Said Pranab Mukherjee of the Congress: ‘‘The electoral process should not be disturbed because once it begins even the courts cannot intervene. So many powers are given to the returning officer with only one day for scrutiny. It is not practical.’’

Samajwadi Party MP Ram Gopal Yadav said, ‘‘We are politicians and when we are in opposition, we get into a lot of demonstrations. Invariably in every agitation, some cases are filed. These are not political cases but criminal cases. It is not possible for every active politician to keep track of all the cases. These guidelines can give the opponent an opportunity to play mischief.’’

CPI (M) MP Nilotpal Basu said, ‘‘The EC guidelines will only complicate the matter.’’ So the proposed legislation due to be finalised by this weekend will also address ‘‘the practical difficulties’’ involved in making candidates disclose every criminal case in which they have been charged, discharged, convicted or acquitted.

Parties raised objections to the requirement of candidates having to disclose details of movable and immovable assets at the time of filing nominations.

They were most categorical in rejecting the stipulation of making candidates disclose educational qualifications. After the meeting, Law Minister Jana Krishnamurthy said general view was that affidavit introduced by EC makes filing of nomination papers ‘‘a cumbersome process.’’

The Government, he said, took note of the observations of political parties that the poll process should not be ‘‘complicated by impractical and unnecessary road blocks.’’ But it is claimed that the legislation that is being drafted will seek to achieve this object without violating the Supreme Court judgment. Krishnamurthy said: ‘‘There was no scope for any type of confrontation between Parliament and the Supreme Court because each is Supreme in its own sphere.’’

He pointed out that even the judgment clarified that the EC’s order would operate only till Parliament makes statutory provisions for the disclosures that the candidates need to make. The Government maintains that the proposed legislation diluting the Election Commission will be ‘‘true to the Supreme Court’s object of curbing criminalisation of politics and making the electoral system more transparent.’’

On the requirement of disclosing criminal antecedents, the opinion that has emerged suggests that candidates should be spared the burden of going into cases booked against them for political activities such as dharnas and satyagrahas.

The proposed legislation may depart from SC direction that all candidates should disclose their assets at the time of filing nominations. All party representatives accepted Government’s proposal that only winning candidate should be required to disclose his assets, that too to presiding officer of House to which he is elected.

Asked about the consensus against the requirement of disclosing educational qualifications, Krishnamurthy said the media anyway brings out such information and there is no need to provide for it by law.



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