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Election Commission seeks lifetime ban on convicted politicians

The Election Commission (EC) has asked for a lifetime ban on convicted politicians from contesting polls. In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday, the EC also sought the setting up of special courts to clear cases related to politicians, public servants and members of judiciary within a year.

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL), filed by advocate Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay on March 3, had sought to debar convicted persons from legislature, executive and judiciary for life. Upadhyay, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, had made the Centre and the EC the parties in the case.

In his petition, Upadhyay stated that it was impossible to decriminalise politics unless convicted criminals were removed from the system altogether as is done in the executive and the judiciary. His petition also raised two more points: implementation of the electoral reforms proposed by the EC, Law Commission and National Commission, and setting a minimum qualification and maximum age limit for people's representatives.

In its reply, the EC submitted that the demands were "not adversarial and it supported the cause espoused by the petitioner," on the first two points. On the last point, the EC said that the issue was in the legislative domain and would require an amendment to the Indian Constitution.

Several recommendations to decriminalise politics, like making bribery a cognisable offence and prohibition of paid news, were pending with Law the Commission, it said.

The EC submitted that it has championed the cause of free and fair elections within the constitutional framework. Hosts of other measures recommended include proscribing political advertisements 48 hours before polls and amendment to the election laws to check bribing voters and enforcing the limit on election expense.

Should a law to this effect come to pass, it would affect politicians like how it affected the careers of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Lalu Prasad Yadav, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader OP Chautala and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhaka'sm (AIADMK) Sasikala.

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