Terming the current rule which disqualifies candidates upon conviction ‘incapable’ of keeping criminals away from electoral politics, the law commission has recommended that disqualification should happen upon framing of charges in cases punishable by five years in jail or more.
The panel's report on 'Electoral Disqualifications', which was tabled in Parliament on Monday, also recommends that the filing of false affidavit should be treated as a "corrupt practice" under the Representation of the People Act and invite disqualification.
The commission, which advises the government on complex legal issues, had submitted the report to Supreme Court in March this year. The report was also handed to the then Law Minister Kapil Sibal. It was tabled in Lok Sabha by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
It has also recommended enhancement of punishment for such action from the current six months to at least two years along with a fine. In the report on disqualification and filing of false affidavits, the commission has said, "The law needs to evolve to pose an effective deterrence and prevent subversion of the process of justice."
"Disqualification upon conviction has proved to be incapable of curbing the growing criminalisation of politics, owing to long delays in trials and rare convictions," the Commission has stated.
It said that the stage of framing of charges (for an offence punishable with at least five years' imprisonment) is based on "adequate levels of judicial scrutiny" and disqualification at that stage, if accompanied by substantial attendant legal safeguards to prevent misuse, has "significant potential" to curb criminalisation of politics.
Filing of the police report under Section 173 of CrPC is "not an appropriate stage" to introduce electoral disqualifications due to "lack of sufficient application of judicial mind at this stage," the panel said.
Referring to the proposed safeguards while disqualifying a candidate at the stage of framing of charges, the panel said that only offences which have a maximum punishment of five years or above ought to be included within the remit of the provision.
It also said that charges filed up to one year before the date of scrutiny of nominations papers for an election will not lead to disqualification. It was responding to fears that political rivalry may lead to complaints which can create hurdles for a candidate during polls.
The law panel said that for charges framed against sitting members of Parliament or members of Legislative Assembly, the trial must be expedited and concluded within a one-year period.
"If trial is not concluded within one year then (either) the MP/MLA may be disqualified at the expiry of the one-year period or the MP/MLAs' right to vote in the House as a member, remuneration shall be suspended at the expiry of the one-year period," the report said.