Our initiatives on electoral reforms
- From: Jayashree Gupta
‘Electoral reform within India is integral to the achievement of gender justice.’So says Justice Verma’s Committee in its Report on Amendments to Criminal Law (Submitted on January 23, 2013). Some of the observations made in Justice Verma’s Report (Chapter 13 - ‘ELECTORAL REFORMS’) are quoted below:
'This Committee is concerned about the integrity of the legislative process, in particular with regard to the reform of the criminal justice system, if lawmakers themselves have serious charges – of which cognizance has been taken by a court of competent jurisdiction – pending against them.’
Ø ‘The Election Commission in its response has stated that it had sent a recommendation to the Government as far back as 1998 that candidates should be disqualified even prior to conviction for serious offences. The Commission's recommendation was that a person against whom charges have been framed by a court for an offence punishable with imprisonment of 5 years or more should stand disqualified from contesting election. We have noticed that the said proposal was repeated in 2004 and has clearly been ignored by Parliament.’
Ø ‘We are also of the opinion that arguments on framing of charge themselves take a long time in Court. For us, it is sufficient if a charge sheet has been filed and cognizance has been taken by a Court for the person concerned to be disqualified from contesting elections to either House of Parliament or to the Legislature of a State. Accordingly, we suggest that in Section 8(1) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 may be amended.’
Ø ‘We find that at least 10,618 candidates in the last 10 years are candidates who have declared criminal cases. Further, out of them, 6,944 candidates are those who have declared heinous crimes’.
Ø ‘In our opinion, Section 8(1) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 must contain a provision for disqualification in respect of every case where a person has been accused of the offences listed therein where a the court has taken cognizance’.
Ø ‘The Election Commission has been unable to deal with corruption which may exist through the medium of political parties because of the fact that it does not have any authority in law and nor does any party have any statutory requirement of following certain internal checks and balances. Imposing a barrier upon people who have criminal records from entering politics would be the easiest way to cleanse lawmaking bodies of the present day malady.’
Ø ‘It is clear that a Parliament which consists of persons with criminal records is unlikely to pass any effective Criminal Law Amendment reform’.
Ø ‘We are of the opinion that if 31% of the Electoral College has either been charged with or convicted of a criminal offence, a fundamental attribute of morality which is inherent in discharging public functions stands seriously impaired. We may add that on the definition of heinous cases which list we have supplied, 20% of all elected candidates have a criminal record involving such heinous offences.’
Ø ‘We therefore would suggest an amendment to the provisions of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act, 1971 to permit a deeper investigation of assets/liabilities declared at the time of filing a nomination paper or, as soon as may be practical thereafter. The assets and liabilities of each successful candidate – at the very least, if not all candidates – contesting elections to the Parliament/State Legislature may be verified by a division of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.’
We have appealed to Prime Minister and others to take immediate steps to implement recommendations of Justice Verma’s Committee on electoral reforms with a view to establish probity in public life. Full text of the letter may be seen on our Blog as per following link:
We had also organized a talk on a related subject titled 'Can we expect gender-sensitive laws from law makers being tried for crimes against women?’ in India Habitat Centre on 21st March, 2013. This was the eleventh programme in the series organised by Consumers India during last fifteen months with a view to generate awareness regarding important consumer concerns.
Internship Certificates were also given on this occasion to students, who have successfully completed 3rd batch of internship with Consumers India. The Internship Programme was launched on 15th September, 2012 by Consumers India with a view to meet increasing demand from our youngsters for involvement with Consumers India. In these three batches, within a limited period of 6 months, thirty candidates have successfully completed internship with Consumers India. They had come all the way from National Law Universities at Odisha, Vishakhapatnam & Raipur, Delhi Technological University, Lady Sri Ram College, etc. In the third batch seven students from Sri Ram College of Commerce and Lady Sri Ram College of Delhi University have studied important consumer issues like ‘A study of Health Insurance of senior citizens - in theory and practice’, ‘The truth about selected misleading ads relating to nutritional supplements or medicines’ and ‘The Functioning of State Consumer Grievances Redressal Commission’. One of the students, Ms Divya Ludhani, currently pursuing Political Science in Lady Sri Ram College of Delhi University, also shared her experiences and major findings emanating from her study relating to ‘The truth about selected misleading ads relating to nutritional supplements or medicines’.
Pictures relating to the programme may be seen on Face Book Group and page relating to Consumers India. Links are provided below:
With best wishes,
Dr (Mrs)Jayashree Gupta, President, Consumers India
& Chairperson, Human Rights Group,
SUM, An NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of United Nations,
Former Additional Secretary to Government of India &
Chairperson & Managing Director
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