Persons behind bars will not be allowed to contest elections and law-makers convicted would be disqualified immediately, an Election Commission directive has stated.
The EC enforced the Supreme Court orders in this connection and directed its chief electoral officers and state chief secretaries to immediately implement them.
The EC said the SC orders will become applicable from July 10 — the day they were issued. The SC had upheld the Patna High Court judgment of 2004 stating that a person in custody can’t contest elections as he or she isn’t a voter under Representation of People Act, 1951.
On the same day, the court in another order had termed protection to Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies against conviction in the Act as “ultra vires” to the Constitution and said they should be disqualified immediately. The court had, however, exempted already convicted law-makers from its order.
The commission’s direction to state electoral officers and chief secretaries to implement the judgments comes almost a month after they were issued. An apparent reason for the commission’s action was inability of the government to decide on how to deal with the piquant situation described as “judicial overreach” by political parties.
The government has decided to seek review of the court judgment on conviction but is undecided on how to deal with the order on debarring persons in custody from contesting. “We are looking at various options and are holding consultation with various political parties,” law minister Kapil Sibal had said earlier this week.
The order would have immediate implications for by-elections being held in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and possibly for assembly elections for five states in November-December if the directive is implemented.