A day before a new set of politicians — some with criminal records — are elected to five state assemblies on Friday, Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi asked the government to raise the integrity bar to keep criminals out of politics, wondering how law-breakers could become law-makers.
One in every four candidates contesting the elections in the five states has a criminal case. But the law only bars convicts from contesting elections.
The CEC said it was time to invoke the principle of “institutional integrity” to keep criminals away from assemblies and Parliament. The principle was invoked by the Supreme Court to remove former central vigilance commissioner PJ Thomas that emphasised on the co-relation between personal integrity and institution integrity.
“How can law-breakers become lawmakers,” the CEC asked. Quraishi also questioned the rationale to debar under-trials lodged in jails to vote.
“What is so sacrosanct about right to contest when rights of 2.68 lakh undertrials to vote are taken away,” Quraishi, who intends to pursue poll reforms with the government, said.
The commission suggested that persons against whom a court has framed charges for crimes where the minimum punishment is more than five years, should be barred from contesting elections.