In a bid to put its electoral reforms agenda on the fast track and seize the initiative from social activist Anna Hazare and his team, the government will call an-all party meeting in mid-October on the subject.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has directed the law ministry to evolve a “political consensus at the earliest” on its proposal to keep the “election arena free from persons with criminal backgrounds”.
The move comes at a time when Hazare and his team have said that after the lokpal bill, their next campaign will be on electoral reforms.
The government, keen to avoid a repeat of Hazare’s agitation on the lokpal bill, has decided to go-ahead with its agenda to decriminalise the electoral system and check the flow of black money in elections.
“Following the PMO’s advice, we are in the process of finalising the date and agenda for an all-party meeting in mid-October, keeping in mind that it is a month of festivals,” said a law ministry official.
The ministry, in its note to the cabinet earlier this month, proposed to amend the existing law by disqualifying candidates against whom courts had framed charges for having allegedly committed offences punishable with a of minimum of five years’ imprisonment.The ministry, in its list of specified offences under the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act, however, provided a safeguard against the misuse of the provision, saying "charges should have been framed by a competent court, at least one year prior to the date of issue of the election notification."
The proposal, initiated by former law minister M Veerappa Moily and taken forward by his successor, Salman Khurshid, also aims to plug the existing loophole of allowing candidates convicted for heinous crimes, to continue contesting elections by seeking stays on lower court verdicts from higher courts.
“A person convicted of having committed an offence under the new specified offences, shall be disqualified from being chosen as an MP or an MLA until he gets acquitted from a higher court of law,” the proposal states.