Should UP MLA Shekhar Tiwari now be barred from contesting elections? He is accused of involvement in the murder of executive engineer MK Gupta. But there is nothing in the existing rules to stop him from seeking re-election. Not till he lands a conviction.
No matter how severe the crime, the accused is not only presumed innocent till pronounced guilty, but also worthy of making or striking down laws. Most Indians are not comfortable with this, including the major political parties.
Both the Congress and the BJP support in principle a recommendation of the Election Commission to change the Representation of the People's Act to bar from election people facing charges punishable with five or more years in jail.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, "Personally speaking this should be implemented. However, it has not been done due to lack of consensus at all-party meetings." BJP's Arun Jaitley said, "There can be appropriately worded amendment debarring criminals from contesting elections."
While the parties take their time deciding, people are getting impatient. Of the 549 candidates with criminal records who contested the just recently concluded assembly elections, 125 won, according to a detail study of the affidavits submitted by the candidates.
The Association for Democratic Reforms, an organisation floated by some IIM professors, is stepping up its campaign for electoral reforms. And it is holding its fifth national convention in Mumbai in January. The election commissioners are scheduled to attend. The issue of criminals in politics will figure significantly at the convention.