Keen to send out a strong signal about its commitment to integrity and probity in public life,the Congress is looking at the possibility of bringing about electoral reforms debarring candidates,chargesheeted for heinous crimes,from contesting elections even before they are convicted.
It is one of the proposals being considered by the electoral reforms committee constituted by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi last month. The committee headed by senior leader Ambika Soni is also learnt to be discussing various ways to check the practice of paid news and studying the viability of state funding of elections.
Given the frequently cited allegations of politically motivated FIRs and chargesheets,committee members are said to be of the view that a candidate should be debarred from contesting on the basis of a chargesheet against him only if it is filed at least six months or one year before the elections.
Besides,this should be applicable in case of certain heinous crimes like rape or murder or in cases entailing imprisonment of at least two years. We are yet to formulate a final view but existing laws are certainly not adequate to deal with criminalisation of politics, a committee member told The Sunday Express.
Apart from Soni,the committee comprises Mani Shankar Aiyar,M Veerappa Moily,M S Gill,E M S Natchiappan and Mohan Gopal. It is in the process of finalising draft recommendations to be submitted to Sonia before Parliament reassembles after recess on April 22.
Confirming that the committee is looking at the option of state funding of elections and also into the issue of paid news,Aiyar said,We are looking at all this but it is at the stage of consideration,not conclusion.
On Tuesday,former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi had told the committee that instead of state funding of elections,parties should be given money on the basis of the number of votes they secure in elections as is the practice in countries like Canada and Germany.
According to him,said sources,state funding of elections would only make more money available without checking the role of black money in elections.
The committee had earlier invited suggestions from Pradesh Congress Committees and a large number of them were said to have favoured state funding of elections and also asked for ways to deal with the phenomemnon of paid news.
At the AICC meet in Jaipur last January,Sonia had said that people were getting disenchanted with the political process and there was a need to understand the reasons for this. We should oppose any attempt of mud slinging on politicians… But we also agree that to regain peoples confidence,there is a need to consider electoral reforms, she had said,announcing her intention to form a group to consider suggestions.