Updated: July 29, 2019 6:49:07 am
Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang’s fate now rests with the Election Commission (EC) as he is learnt to have recently requested a waiver of the remaining period of his disqualification to retain the post.
Tamang, who was appointed on May 27, needs to be elected to the Assembly within six months of his appointment. However, he is barred from contesting polls as he has been convicted in a corruption case.
Tamang served a year in prison, between 2017 and 2018, after he was found guilty of misappropriating government funds in a cow distribution scheme while he was the minister of animal husbandry in the 1990s. He was released on August 10, 2018. Under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, those convicted and imprisoned under the Prevention of Corruption Act are disqualified from contesting elections during the period of incarceration and until six years after release.
However, Section 11 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, empowers the EC to remove or reduce the period of disqualification. If the poll panel refuses to lift the ban on Tamang, he will have to resign from the post. “The request is being examined,” a senior EC official told The Indian Express.
There have been precedents of the EC exercising its powers under Section 11 to remove or reduce disqualification of a convicted person. Last year, the poll panel had informed the Supreme Court, in an affidavit, that in 1977 it had reduced the period of disqualification of two Uttar Pradesh MLAs, Shyam Narain Tiwari and Mitra Sen Yadav, who were convicted of criminal offences.
Sikkim went to polls on April 11, simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections. Tamang’s Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) defeated the Sikkim Democratic Front, which had ruled the state for five consecutive terms. SKM is an ally of the BJP and part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre.
Tamang’s appointment as CM is currently under challenge in the Supreme Court. The petition by Bimal Dawari Sharma of the ousted Sikkim Democratic Front states, “It is clear that the RPA lays down that the commission of serious criminal offences renders a person ineligible to contest in elections or continue as a representative of the people. Such a restriction does provide the salutary deterrent necessary to prevent criminal elements from holding public office, thereby preserving the probity of representative government.”
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