New Delhi: People accused of rape, murder,
kidnapping, dacoity and moral turpitude should be barred from
contesting polls, former chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi
says, while noting the number of members with criminal charges
against them has gone up from 124 in the previous Lok Sabha to 162
in the current house.
"This is a disturbing trend. At least people facing heinous
charges like rape, murder, kidnapping, dacoity and moral turpitude
should be barred from contesting polls," Quraishi told IANS in an
During his tenure (2010-12), the poll panel had submitted to the
government around 25 proposals for election reforms, he said. One
of these related to barring people facing criminal charges from
According to the former CEC, who is now leading a retired life but
continues to campaign for electoral reforms, which he says was at
the root of political corruption in the country, political parties
are wary of barring people with criminal charges against them as
they fear false cases could be levelled by their opponents.
Quraishi countered the argument by saying that the fundamental
rights of around 268,000 undertrials in Indian jails were also
being denied. "There are around 400,000 prisoners in Indian jails.
Around 268,000 of them are undertrials. Their fundamental right to
liberty, freedom of movement, occupation and dignity is being
denied," Quraishi pointed out.
"Should they (undertrials) be treated as innocents?" he asked.
Talking about another key poll reform proposal, Quraishi said
there should be transparency in funding of political parties.
"We have been demanding that all expenditure of political parties
should be through cheques and an independent panel suggested by
the Election Commission should audit it," said Quraishi.
Noting that state funding of elections is not a practical solution
to curb use of black money, the former CEC said the government
should rather examine state funding of political parties based on
"State funding of elections is not a practical solution as use of
black money will remain a problem. Crores of rupees can be spent
by a candidate on other activities. Instead, the government should
examine state funding of political parties," Quraishi said.
This, he said, is being practised in Canada and Germany.
"For instance Rs.100 can be given to a party for every vote
polled. It will reduce dependence on the use of black money," said
Highlighting the need to empower the poll panel, Quraishi said the
legal protection stipulating that a CEC can be removed only
through an impeachment process should also be extended to the two
"The poll panel is now a three-member body. All commissioners
should be protected," he said.
He also said that "appointment of Election Commissioners should
also be done through a collegium and they should be upgraded as
CEC on the basis of their seniority and not through a
He suggested penal action in cases of use of religion in polls and
paid news, besides a ban on government advertisements six months
before the polls.
"We had suggested jail up to two years for (instances of) paid
news," Quraishi said.
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at email@example.com)