Can a candidate be disqualified from contesting polls at chargesheet stage?

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New Delhi, Jan 6: Can a candidate facing criminal charges be disqualified from contesting the elections at the stage of filing a chargesheet? The Supreme Court will constitute a five judge Bench to decide on this crucial issue. Chief Justice of India JS Khehar has said that he would expedite this matter.

[Also Read: Justice JS Khehar, first CJI from Sikh community, to take oath today]

Currently, a candidate is barred from contesting only if he or she is convicted by the court. The question before the SC would be whether a candidate can be barred from contesting at the time of filing the chargesheet or framing of charges or only after conviction.

Criminalisation of politics

Can court lay down the disqualification of membership:
The key question before the court would be on whether disqualification of membership can be laid down by the judiciary. Can the judiciary go beyond Article 102 (a) to (d) of the Indian Constitution and the law made by the Parliament under Article 102(e).

The CJI says that this is a point of law that needs to be taken up and it should be made clear by the next elections at least. An immediate answer cannot be given as it would lead to filing of false cases as the election process is already underway in five states.

In 2011, a petition had been filed seeking a direction to bar chargesheeted persons from contesting the elections. The law commission had said in its report, "disqualification upon conviction has proved to be incapable of curbing the growing criminalisation of politics, owing to long delays in trials and rare convictions. The law needs to evolve to pose an effective deterrence, and to prevent subversion of the process of justice."

The commission, however, also added that at the time of filing the chargesheet it would not be the appropriate time to bar a candidate. At this stage is this lack of sufficient application of judicial mind, the commission had also said.

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