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'Disqualify people facing criminal charges from contesting polls'
Monday November 25, 2013 11:10 PM, IANS

All those people against whom six months before elections charges have been framed for an offence punishable with jail for five years should be disqualified from contesting polls, the Election Commission told the Supreme Court Monday.

"Where a person has been accused of serious criminal charges, and where the court is prima facie satisfied about his involvement in the crime, and consequently charges have been framed at least six months before the election for an offence punishable with imprisonment of five years or more... the said person should be disqualified from elections," the Election Commission told the apex court.

"... the said disqualification would constitute a reasonable restriction for serving the larger public interest", the commission told the apex court bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha.

The commission also recommended that people found guilty by a Commission of Enquiry should also stand disqualified.

Addressing the government submission that it could not accept the commission's recommendations as it would be a departure from existing legal provisions and could be misused by the party in power, the commission told the court that "the framing of a charge against an accused is done after allegations and evidence have undergone judicial scrutiny and application of judicial mind by a competent court of law".

The commission said this in response to a PIL filed by NGO Public Interest Foundation seeking framing of guidelines/framework to ensure that those charged with serious criminal offences are unable to enter political arena by contesting election.

The petitioner NGO also sought the court's direction to set a time-frame of six months during which the trial of such people is concluded.

Meanwhile, the court asked the government to place before it the reference it has made to the Law Commission for examination of reports of various committees in the past and to suggest comprehensive means for changes in electoral laws.

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