The Centre has told the Delhi High Court it is considering electoral reforms recommended by Law Commission and “some action” is certain after a plea sought removal of a provision restricting the period of disqualification from contesting polls for a candidate to six years on being sentenced to two years or more.
The submission was made before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal which was hearing a plea seeking a slew of electoral reform measures.
The Centre informed the bench that the Law Commission, in two of its reports, has recommended “electoral reforms/ regulation of political parties and inner party democracy”.
“Ministry of Law and Justice constituted a task force comprising senior officers to examine the recommendation and form a roadmap for its implementation,” the Centre said in its affidavit.
“The subject matter of the 244th and 255th report of the Law Commission is already under consideration of the Government of India at an appropriate level, it is humbly prayed that this court dispose of the writ petition at the admission stage since it is certain that some action would be taken by the government on the subject matter,” the affidavit states.
The government was responding to a plea by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who has claimed that the restriction of six years on the period of disqualification of a legislator was ultra vires of the Constitution.
He has sought that two sections of Representation of the People Act (RPA) be declared “void, as they restrict disqualification period up to six years” only and allow convicted person to contest Parliament and state assembly elections.
The government, however, urged the court to dismiss the plea on the ground that the petitioner has “not espoused any cause of greater public importance”.
“The petition does not provide conclusive material and factual proof to substitute that section 8 & 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 are unconstitutional and void.
“These section are intra views and have been in the statute book for long time and serve the purpose for which these are enacted,” the Centre government’s standing counsel Monika Arora said.
The court has now fixed the matter for further consideration on May 17.
The plea has suggested implementation of electoral reforms proposed by the Election Commission and Law Commission which also favour disqualifying a lawmaker even prior to his conviction, at the stage when charges are framed against him for offences which carry a punishment of imprisonment for five or more years.
Besides, it seeks directions to the government to set minimum educational qualifications and maximum age limit for contesting candidates.
It suggests that political parties should have the responsibility to maintain proper accounts of their income and expenditure and get them annually audited by agencies specified by the ECI.
The petitioner has sought enhancement of punishment from fine or one year imprisonment to two year jail term for electoral offences like undue influence and bribery at polls and publishing a false statement in connection with an election.
The petitioner has also said in his plea that “candidates violating provisions of the Act should be disqualified and political parties putting up such a candidate should be derecognised and deregistered”.
The other issues raised in the plea include, proliferation of non-serious parties, process of recognition and de-recognition of political parties, as well as disclosure of assets and liabilities of parties.