Now, jailed convicts cannot contest polls, rules SC

New Delhi, July 11: The Supreme Court today took another step to keep criminals out of the democratic and electoral process in the country and barred those in jail from contesting elections.

The apex court ruled that only an "elector" can contest the polls and he/she ceases the right to cast vote due to confinement in prison or being in custody of police. The court, however, made it clear that disqualification would not be applicable to person subjected to preventive detention under any law.

The court today confirmed the 2004 order of the Patna High Court, which had directed the Election Commission to strike off names of jailed persons from the voters list.

Technically, a person cannot contest elections if they are not registered as voters.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court had said that the lawmakers would be disqualified from the date of their conviction by a court. It had held the Section 8 (4) of the Reperesentation of People Act as null and void.

Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath today hailed the SC judgement disqualifying MPs and MLAs instantly on their conviction for criminal offences, saying it was "long overdue" and one that would clean the electoral process.

"It was long overdue. There cannot be any distinction between elected individual and non-elected individual. Hope that the Supreme Court order will clean the process," he said.

As part of electoral reforms to decriminalise politics, the Election Commission had in the past repeatedly urged the government to amend the RPA to remove the advantage given to incumbent lawmakers against immediate disqualification on conviction of an offence that carried more than two years imprisonment.

On the other hand, the political class, while welcoming the verdict expressed apprehensions about the judgment's "far-reaching" implications.

Congress leader Renuka Chowdhary told reporters that it would be "premature" for her to react. "Of course, we always welcome and appreciate any check or balance which is going to work and set up barriers and clean society."
But she added the party needed to see what the judgment exactly said and its "ramifications."

BJP national spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told media that "we welcome any step taken towards cleaning the electoral process. But we haven't even seen a copy of the verdict yet, and will need time."

Samajwadi Party spokesperson Kamal Farooqui said he "personally" welcomed the judgment. "The criminalisation of politics has to be stopped, and the court direction should be translated into action by the EC."

OneIndia News
(withe agencies inputs)

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