Even as the apex court is likely to constitute a five-judge constitution bench to decide if chargesheeted candidates be debarred from contesting elections, a draft bill has been gathering dust for the last two years.
The draft bill—Representation of People Act (Amendment) Bill—is pending since 2014 when it was first scheduled to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament. The bill, which provides for disqualification of a candidate for up to 13 years from contesting if chargesheeted in a heinous crime, was, however, derailed for building a consensus on the goods and services tax (GST) bill.
Two years later, and after passage of the GST bill, the NDA government is in a more comfortable situation to introduce the much needed poll reforms to weed out criminal elements from law making, particularly when at least 34% of the sitting Lok Sabha MPs (185 MPs) have declared criminal charges pending against them. There is a growing chorus from citizens seeking election reforms.
The Union law ministry had introduced a safeguard in the draft amendment bill which clarified that the chargesheet has to be filed at least 180 days prior to the notification of the poll for a candidate, against whom charges have been framed, to be disqualified. This clause would ensure that any motivated criminal case against a candidate would not affect his candidature.
The bill for the first time provides that on furnishing of a false affidavit before the EC, a politician shall stand disqualified from his seat and subsequently debarred from contesting elections for a period which shall be the term of the sentence and six years thereafter, that is up to 13 years.