Candidates found guilty of providing false information and hiding facts in election affidavits would go to jail for three years and face automatic disqualification from contesting for at least a further six years under a proposal the government is preparing to place before Parliament.
The law ministry, in proposed changes to the Representation of the People Act (RPT Act), has also sought to end the practice of candidates contesting from more than one seat, pointing out that this leads to several problems including an early by-election and needless costs.
The changes are the government’s final attempt to push the electoral reforms agenda before the 2014 general elections. It remains to be seen whether it will manage to get the Act amended during the Winter session, which has a maximum of only 12 working days.
The Election Commission (EC) has long been demanding an amendment in the law that results in the disqualification of candidates providing false information in affidavits filed with nomination papers, a demand endorsed by the Justice JS Verma panel in its report earlier this year.
Under the existing law, any candidate found guilty of either concealing, failing to furnish or providing false information in the election affidavit faces only six months in jail and a fine.
“Six months imprisonment is hardly a deterrent for any candidate who can conceal or provide false information about the criminal record, educational qualification and even his/her property details to play a fraud on democracy,” the EC had written to the government.
It had strongly pitched for punishing such candidates by sending them to jail for at least two years, a time duration which would attract disqualification under the RPT Act.
The ministry has also decided to push its three year-old proposal to disqualify those candidates from contesting elections against whom charges have been framed by courts for allegedly having committed heinous crimes punishable with at least seven years in jail.
“This proposal has been discussed at various forums since last three years and it will apply in cases where charges have been framed by a court at least one year before the announcement of elections,” said an official. This safeguard has been provided to prevent any misuse of the proposed law by ruling parties.