India can become a mature democracy only when it is able to bar criminals from contesting elections, Election Commissioner H S Brahma today said.
Stressing on cleansing the system of elections by bringing the much-needed electoral reforms, he said the menace of paid news has become a cause of concern as it was "eroding the very foundations of the country's electoral process".
Delivering a lecture on 'challenges to electoral processes' at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses here, Brahma said, "The day our country is able to bar criminals from contesting elections right from the level of gram panchayat to the top, it will come to the rank of mature democracy".
He said the limit on expenditure during elections by the candidates was being flouted with impunity and it would be a "fool to believe that they restrict their spending to the stated amount only".
Poll expenditure for parliamentary constituencies is fixed at Rs 40 lakh and Rs 16 lakh for assembly constituencies.
Brahma said voters have come to realise that distribution of cash or freebies during elections have become "some sort of right for us".
In this context, he stressed on ensuring 'perfect electoral roll' and initiating a policy of "know your candidates" to help votes study the background of their representatives before elections.
Talking on a variety of subjects ranging from problems in implementing of the right to recall to the menace of sabotage of electoral rolls and voting malpractices, Bramha admitted that while there is a general consensus across party lines on the need of electoral reforms, the "will to execute these decisions was lacking".
He said the process of delimitation in some of the remaining states in the northeast and Jharkhand should be hastened to ensure that governance is equally enjoyed by all.
He argued that while voting could not be made compulsory, it should be the duty of every citizen to cast to "ensure there is a voluntary voter turnout".
To a question he said there is a big demand for registration of political parties by elements who want to misuse a provision under which registered political parties are exempted from paying tax.
This, he said, can be tamed if the commission is given the right to deregister the political parties.