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Centre rejects EC proposal to disqualify candidates with outstanding dues to govt

Law ministry officials are of the view that non-payment of dues is not a grave offence but a matter to be dealt with under civil law and should not be included in the list of candidate disqualifications.

india Updated: Oct 08, 2017 19:26 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Election Commission,Candidates disqualification,Law ministry
The Election Commission had proposed to disqualify candidates who owe the government for things such as utility services, accommodation and so on.(HT File Photo)

The law ministry has turned down the Election Commission’s proposal to disqualify from contesting elections politicians with unpaid dues for government accommodation or for utility services such as telephone, electricity and water supply, officials told HT.

At present, candidates are disqualified from contesting elections for conviction in certain criminal offences, corruption and not submitting election expense accounts, which are part of a series of election reforms introduced by the EC over the years.

Ministry sources said that implementing the EC’s latest proposal, sent in March, would entail amendments to The Representation of the People Act, the legislation which governs elections in India.

The EC had sought amending the act and adding a clause for disqualification for “being a defaulter of public dues”.

Ministry officials were of the view that non-payment of dues was not a grave offence but a matter to be dealt with under civil law and should not be included in the list of disqualifications.

Also, there was apprehension that agencies issuing clearance certificates could harass prospective candidates depending on their political affiliation.

“After considering it carefully, we decided not to forward the proposal to the cabinet,” said a top ministry official who did not want to be named.

The EC’s proposal came after the Delhi high court in 2015 asked poll candidates to clear all pending dues.

Disposing of a public interest litigation, the HC had asked the EC to ensure that candidates contesting the Lok Sabha and assembly elections furnish a ‘no dues certificate’ for electricity, water and telephone connections in their accommodation.

“We have encountered a total lack of will on the part of governmental agencies to whom dues are owed, to recover the same from the politicians and political parties,” the court had said.

From February last year, the EC began asking for an additional affidavit from candidates pertaining to public service dues. Candidates who have been staying in government provided accommodation are also expected to submit along with their nomination papers a ‘no rent due’ certificate.

When the EC met political parties to discuss the electoral reform in March last year, some parties had raised objections to the proposal.

First Published: Oct 08, 2017 19:10 IST