Supreme Court: How can convict be office-bearer of party?

The Supreme Court Monday questioned the rationale behind allowing a convicted person to form a political party while under the existing law, a convicted legislator cannot contest elections for six years.

“How can a convicted person be an office-bearer of a political party and select candidates to contest elections? This goes against our judgments that corruption in politics is to be ostracised for the purity of elections,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra, heading a three-judge bench, observed. The bench was hearing a PIL seeking a ban on convicts from forming a political party or becoming an officer-bearer of any party for the time they are disqualified.

“If he can’t contest, how can he form political party and also select candidates,” the court asked the Centre and Election Commission.

The bench added, “So it is that what you cannot do individually, you can do collectively through some of your agents.”

On the contention that people have a right to form associations, it said they can form an association to establish a school, but “when they are in the field of governance, it matters”.

The court has asked the Centre to file its reply in two weeks.

In December last year, the SC decided to hear the PIL filed by Delhi BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and issued notice to the Centre and the Commission. In its affidavit, the EC said it had earlier proposed to the government that the law should be amended to provide that any person accused of an offence punishable by imprisonment for five years or more should be disqualified from contesting elections even while trial is pending, provided the court has framed charges against him.

The commission sought powers to de-register a political party and to be able to issue orders regulating registration and de-recognition of parties, the affidavit said.

As carried in IE

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