The Election Commission of India (ECI) today told the Supreme Court that it has on several occasions in the past exercised its power to remove or reduce the disqualification of an convicted elected representative. The poll panel placed before the apex court only two examples, dating back to 1977, when it had exercised this power provided under the provisions of the Representation of People (RP) Act.
The ECI, in its affidavit filed in the apex court, said it had in 1977 reduced the period of disqualification of Shyam Narain Tiwari and Mitra Sen Yadav, who were both MLAs from Uttar Pradesh and were disqualified under the RP Act for being convicted of criminal offences.
It said these were the only two cases where disqualification was handed down under a provision of the RP Act for being convicted for criminal offences. The poll panel said that all the other cases where it had exercised its power, the disqualifications were for failure to lodge account of election expenses.
Claiming that the records pertaining to disqualifications for failing to lodge correct account of poll expenses were “voluminous”, it has sought exemption from filing them.
The affidavit was filed by the ECI pursuant to a direction by a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi on November 1 regarding the nature of cases where the poll panel had exercised its power under the RP Act to reduce or remove disqualification of a lawmaker.
Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has filed a PIL in the matter, while several others have come to the apex court as intervenors.
The top court had sought the information while hearing several pleas seeking to declare the provisions of the RP Act, which bar convicted politician from contesting elections for six years after serving jail term, as ultra vires to the Constitution.
The court, during hearing of the matter on November 1, had also favoured creation of special courts to exclusively deal with criminal cases involving politicians and their speedy disposal, saying such a move would be in the “interest of the nation”.
The Centre had agreed with decriminalisation of politics and had said it was not averse to setting up of special courts to deal with cases involving politicians and expeditious disposal of these matters.
Thereafter, the bench had asked the Centre to place before it a scheme for setting up of special courts and said it should also indicate the amount of funds that could be earmarked for it.
It had also said that the issue of appointment of judicial officers, public prosecutors, court staff and infrastructure for these special courts would be dealt with by it, if needed.