Convicted person can’t be barred from forming party, govt tells SC

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New Delhi, March 21: The Union government has told the Supreme Court that convicted persons who are debarred from contesting polls cannot be prevented from forming a political party or being its member.
“The appointment of a postholder to a political party is a matter of party autonomy and it may not be apposite to preclude the Election Commission from registering a political party merely because a particular postholder is not qualified to contest elections,” the law ministry stated in an affidavit.
Under the existing provisions of law on registration of a political party, there does not appear to be any connectivity and nexus between the situation debarring the persons disqualified under the Representation of People Act, 1951, and convicted under the criminal law from contesting elections vis-a-vis debarring such persons from forming a political party, it said.
Notably, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, Haryana’s Indian National Lok Dal supremo Om Prakash Chautala are in jail in corruption cases.
Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa’s aide Sasikala is also convicted in a case. All these leaders continued to remain at the helm and enjoyed their influence in their parties.
The affidavit was filed in response to a PIL filed by Delhi BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who sought a direction to debar a convicted person from heading or being a member of a political party.
On preliminary hearing, the top court had earlier asked the government how a convicted person can select candidates, saying this goes against the very basic tenet of democracy.
“The only issue is whether the EC is empowered to deny the benefit of registration under Section 29A of the Representation of People Act to a political party whose office holders are disqualified under the law to stand for election on account of conviction,” it said.
Maintaining that the government is conscious of the need for electoral reforms in the country, the affidavit pointed out that, in fact, the law commission has in its 255th report suggested for empowering the EC to de-register a political party but none of the situations are relatable to existence of criminal antecedents of postholders.
It further said a plea seeking mandamus to the government to make a law or bring in amendments to an existing law was not maintainable. (DH News Service)