A plea regarding a ban on persons contesting elections against whom serious offences have been framed has been moved to the Supreme Court. This petition has been submitted and filed by Advocate Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay. The plea sought a writ mandamus by the Apex Court to the Centre and Election Commission. The petition sought for the Apex Court to pass an order that would take the requisite steps to debar charge-sheeted persons that are involved in serious offences from contesting elections.
The plea also takes into account the various committees that were set up to revolutionize the election system and their suggestions. The plea shed light on the Jaya Prakash Narayan Committee in 1974, Goswami Committee in 1990 & Vohra Committee in 1993. It also sheds light on the suggestions that each of these committees put forth. However, none of these suggestions were implemented.
The plea further stated, “there is no reason why they should be held to lower standards than Judges or Indian Administrative Service officers. Further, it is averred that the Law Commission had also put forth reports on Electoral reforms and decriminalization of politics but Centre did nothing”.
the plea also submitted that The Law Commission submitted its 244th report on February 24th, 2014. The report was regarding decriminalizing politics. However, no substantial steps were taken by the Centre. Similarly, on March 12th, 2015, the Law Commission submitted its 255th report that dealt with Electoral Reform but the Centre paid no heed. Again, on December 5th, 2016, the Election Commissions suggested several reforms, but they were not implemented.
Further, the plea read, “Out of 542 winners analyzed after 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 185 (34%) winners had declared criminal cases against themselves. Out of 543 winners analyzed after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 162 (30%) winners had declared criminal cases against themselves. There is an increase of 44% in the number of MPs with declared criminal cases since 2009. Similarly, 159 (29%) winners in Lok Sabha 2019 Elections have declared serious criminal cases including cases related to rape, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, crimes against women, etc. Out of 542 winners analyzed during the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, 112 21%,) winners had declared serious criminal cases against themselves. Out of 543 winners analyzed during Lok Sabha elections in 2009, 76 (14%) winners had declared serious criminal cases against themselves...".
In light of the above mentioned points, the petitioner stated that the criminalization of politics has deeply injured people. The petitioner also stated permitting criminals contests our democracy and secularism.
The petitioner also clarified that banning charge-sheeted persons cannot violate Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution. Article 19(1) reads as “(1) All citizens shall have the right
- (a) to freedom of speech and expression;
- (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
- (c) to form associations or unions;
- (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
- (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
- (f) omitted
- (g) to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business”
The petitioner also states that debarring such individuals are a reasonable restriction even if the debarring falls under the scope of Article 19(1)(a). The plea has also prayed for the Election Commission to amend the Election Symbols (Reservation & Allotment) Order, 1968 under its plenary powers under Article 324.
Article 324 of the Indian Constitution elaborates on “ Superintendence, direction, and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission”