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'Only political reforms can clean up the system'

By Vicky Nanjappa
July 12, 2013 18:23 IST
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It is people who should make an informed choice. When parties begin to realise that fielding tainted candidates is affecting their chances, they will change, says Professor Trilochan Sastry. Vicky Nanjappa reports

The Supreme Court, which passed a judgement that convicted candidates and those in jail cannot contest elections, struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of Peoples' Act as Ultra Vires.

Professor Trilochan Sastry, with the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore is one of the founders of the Association for Democratic Reforms, which has been exposing candidates with criminal background.

Talking to about the SC verdict, Sastry said that the verdict also states that unless there are political reforms, not much will change.

"I think that the judgments of the Supreme Court are good. Although it will not clean up the system entirely, it will initiate the process. The problem which we are faced with is that there are so many candidates with a criminal background. The issue is that many have pending cases against them, which have been dragging on for the last one decade. The courts could play an important role here. They should understand that not deciding on these cases is only amounting to justice delayed is justice denied,” says Sastry.

“The public and NGOs have a major task ahead. They need to log on to as many fronts as possible to apply pressure on political parties to change the way they work. It will not bring about a change immediately, but in the long run it would help. However, the most important thing is political reforms. Unless political parties understand this, we cannot expect much change,” he says.

“There is a need for inner party democracy for selection of candidates. The selection process ought to be made more transparent and democratic. We have been lobbying for political reforms since the past three years.”

“I have often wondered if the American system could be in play here. The public could have a say in the selection process of the candidates. Let us start with the Lok Sabha elections,” says Sastry.

“The problem is that all parties want to win and in the bargain end up pleasing any candidate who is powerful. It is the people who should make an informed choice. When parties begin to realise that fielding tainted candidates is affecting their chances, they will change. Moreover, the young blood with an enthusiasm to change the system should join politics. They should apply pressure within the party not to appoint tainted candidates,” he says.

“Coming back to the issue of pendency in courts, I feel the ideal way to handle the issue is to bar candidates with pending cases from contesting elections. There is an argument that false cases could be filed. However, we are not talking about a case which is in the FIR stage. I am talking of candidates against whom charges have been filed. If these candidates feel wronged then they should go to the courts and seek expedition of the cases. They would benefit if the case against them is a false one then,” he says.

Anil Bairwal, coordinator of the Association for Democratic Reforms says that cases dragging on for too long is the problem. “There is a need to bar candidates against whom charges are framed from contesting. The Supreme Court verdict bars only convicted candidates. In such an event the cases should be fast tracked. Cases cannot go on for one and half decades. Fast tracking a case could be better for both the public as well as the candidate. However, the need of the hour is political reforms and parties should work towards accountability. There is an urgent need for a law to regulate the working of political parties,” adds Bairwal.

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore