The Election Commission, while announcing polls in three north-eastern states had said yesterday that it would like criminal candidates as well as those facing charges of heinous crime to be "immediately" debarred from contesting elections.
"We want it immediately," Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath said when asked whether the EC would like it to be enforced before the next general elections.
The proposal for debarring convicted candidates as well those facing charges of heinous crimes like rape and murder from contesting polls is pending with the government since 1998. It forms part of the electoral reforms proposed by the Election Commission to government from time to time.
"Commission's view regarding banning criminals from contesting is one of the oldest in the country, as early as 1998. About 15 years back, Commission has made the proposals to the government," the CEC said.
He said, "Not only those who are convicted, those who are facing serious criminal charges on heinous affairs, they should also be barred from contesting the election. We have been pursuing and hoping for action." Asked on what the poll body was doing with regard to pushing its proposal for enforcement, Sampath said, "I think you should ask the government."
The Election Commission as part of its electoral reform proposals to de-criminalise politics had written to the government in this regard on Jul 15, 1998.
The draft bill proposes to disqualify those candidates from contesting elections against whom charges have been framed by courts for alleged criminal offences punishable with a jail term of five years or more.
This provision will, however, not apply in cases where "the charges were framed in less than a year before the date of filing nominations". The draft bill provides for safeguards against politically motivated charges too.
The second proposed amendment makes it mandatory for candidates, their parties and also functionaries to submit their accounts audited by an agency authorised by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
Currently, the highest figures are from Uttar Pradesh, which went to polls last year. The percentage of candidates facing criminal charges is 35 per cent and has risen from 28 per cent since 2007. Speaking about Lok Sabha, 162 of the 545 members are facing criminal charges, compared with 128 in the previous Parliament.
The chorus to ban candidates with criminal background from contesting polls has gained ground in the recent past amid public outrage against those committing heinous crimes, especially against women, in the wake of the recent Delhi gangrape. A number of legislators in various state assemblies as well as in Parliament are facing criminal charges, including those of rape and murder against them.
(with PTI inputs)