Panel demands fast track courts

Special Correspondent

Mere framing of charges not a disqualification for contesting

NEW DELHI: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice has recommended the setting up of fast track courts to decide cases against political persons, with a mandate to dispose them of within six months. Special courts should be set up to decide election-related matters, the panel said in its report on "electoral reforms" tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

The committee disagreed with a proposal to disqualify citizens from contesting elections on mere framing of charges against them in court for certain offences. This, the panel members felt, would be a major departure from the law that only when a person was convicted and a judgment given would he/she be disqualified from contesting.

The panel overruled the Government's suggestion for disqualifying a person from registration in the electoral roll if he/she was declared a proclaimed absconder under Section 82 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Charge sheets

Addressing a press conference, panel chairman E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan said the members felt that usually there was apprehension that cases might be foisted on political rivals, leading to filing of charge sheets. The remedy, according to him, lay in speedy trial.

In the case of a person facing a charge who, not utilising the opportunity under Section 227 of the Cr.PC for discharge, absconded from proceedings, if the court was also satisfied then he could be considered for disqualification from contesting.

Proclaimed offender

The committee agreed that the Representation of the People Act, 1950 be amended so that a proclaimed offender was disqualified for registration in the electoral roll if he/she wilfully remained absconding for a reasonable period, such as one year prior to the date of revision of the rolls. However, it should be made clear that the disqualification was a punishment for absconding and not for the offence with which he was charged, but not convicted.

Confidence erosion

"At the same time, the committee is conscious of criminalisation of our polity and the fast erosion of the confidence of the people at large in our political process of the day. This will weaken our democracy and render the democratic institutions sterile. The committee, therefore, feels that politics should be cleansed of persons with established criminal background."

Mr. Natchiappan said the recommendations were unanimous.

As the subject of "electoral reforms" was vast, the panel decided to divide it into different topics.