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Centre promises election reforms

Panel is framing road map, SC told

The Union government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that it had constituted a task force to frame a road map for implementation of the Law Commission’s recommendations on decriminalisation of politics.

A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha asked the Centre to file an affidavit during the day on a PIL petition seeking debarring of convicts for life from contesting polls and stopping them from entering the judiciary and the executive. The Bench listed it for final hearing on July 10.

“Where is the figure as to how many cases are pending against politicians?... It is the duty of the presiding officer of a court to prioritise hearing in such cases,” the Bench said, adding it would like to see the response of the Centre.

The Union Law and Justice Ministry, in its affidavit, told the court that the government was actively considering a law panel report titled “Electoral disqualifications”, and had appointed a team of senior officials to look into the issue.

Complex process

“The respondent is conscious of the need for electoral reforms in our country; however, electoral reforms is a complex, continuous, long drawn and comprehensive process and the Union of India through legislative department is taking all possible action to deliberate upon measures of electoral reforms required in our country through various forums like consultation, meeting, e-views, etc, with all stakeholders,” the Ministry said.

The submissions were made in an affidavit filed by the Ministry in response to the petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking directions to debar convicts from contesting polls for life and stopping them from entering the judiciary and the executive.

Disqualification period

The Law Ministry said that the disqualification period specified under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, is a policy decision which has been enacted by Parliament after due deliberations for curbing the entry of persons with criminal antecedents into the political arena.

“This court has held in a catena of cases that no mandamus can lie to the government for framing law or introducing amendments to existing law as framing of policy, setting standards and the making of law falls within the executive domain of the legislature. It is submitted that the judiciary may step in to fill gaps only where there is s a statutory vacuum, but not where a valid law already occupies the field,” it said.

On the issue of setting up of special courts for MPs or MLAs for disposal of criminal cases, the Ministry said such a prayer was “unwarranted” as long as cases are disposed of within a year.

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