The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre on a public suit seeking to declare as unconstitutional certain provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act that allow a convicted person to contest elections six years after their conviction.
A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal sought a response from the Ministry of Law and Justice as well as the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs on the plea filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay contending that convicted people should be barred for their lifetime from contesting elections.
The petitioner said sections eight and nine of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 should be declared unconstitutional as they restrict disqualification period to only six years.
The disqualification rule for convicted persons cannot be applied differently on the executive, the judiciary and the legislature, the suit said.
“Hence section eight and nine of the Part-II, Chapter-III (disqualification for member ship of parliament and state legislature) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 is violative of the fundamental rights, unconstitutional and inconsistent with Article 13 and 14 of the Constitution of India,” the plea stated.
In the executive and judiciary, when one is convicted for any criminal offence, he or she is suspended automatically and their services are terminated for lifetime.
However, this rule is applied differently in case of a convicted person in a legislature, said the plea.
Even after conviction and undergoing sentence, one can form a political party, become the office bearer of a political party, contest the election, and become member of legislature after expiry of six years from the date of their conviction, Upadhyay said.
The petition questioned why should not there be a lifetime ban on convicted person on contesting elections, forming a political party and becoming office bearer of a political party.
The petition sought direction to set minimum educational qualification and maximum age limit for contesting candidates.
“Direct the law ministry to implement the Election Commission’s Proposed Electoral Reform and Law Commission Report No-244 and 255, which is necessary for de-criminalisation and de-communalisation of politics,” the petition stated.
Certain immediate measures need to be taken feasibly to mark the first successful step towards an attempt to cleansing the electoral system, it said.
The Representation of the People Act has not provided for any proper guidelines in the form of minimum educational qualifications, good character and conduct, the petition said.