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SC to hear after summer break PIL on banning convicted leaders from holding party posts

By PTI Updated: Apr 10, 2019 10:36 pm

New Delhi, April 10 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it would hear in July the PIL seeking banning of convicted persons from forming political parties and holding posts in them.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said the relief sought in the PIL required a detailed hearing which was not possible before July.

“Two days are left in this week and then the Constitution Bench would sit till the start of summer break,” the bench said and ordered listing of the PIL filed by lawyer and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhayay for hearing in July after the summer break, which ends on June 30.

The PIL, filed in 2017, has sought that convicted persons like RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav be restrained from forming and holding posts in political parties for the period they are disqualified under the election law.

Earlier, the apex court had asked as to how can a convicted person be an office-bearer of a political party and select candidates for elections saying that it was against the spirit of one of its judgements to ensure “purity” of polls.

The top court had on December 1, 2017 sought response from the Centre and the Election Commission and agreed to examine the constitutional validity of section 29A of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1951 (RPA), which deals with the power of the poll panel to register a political party.

Under the statutory schemes, the poll panel was empowered to register political parties, but it lacked the authority under the RPA to de-register them, the plea said.

The plea said convicted politicians, who are barred from contesting elections, can still run political parties and hold posts, besides deciding as to who will become a lawmaker.

It has sought a direction to declare section 29A of the RPA as “arbitrary, irrational and ultra-vires” to the Constitution and to authorise the poll panel to register and de-register political parties.

The petitioner has also sought a direction to the Election Commission to frame guidelines to “decriminalise” the electoral system and ensure inner party democracy, as proposed by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC).

The petition said currently even a person who has been convicted of heinous crimes like murder, rape, smuggling, money laundering, loot, sedition, or dacoity, can form a political party and become its president or office bearer.

The petition named several top political leaders who have been convicted or have charges framed against them and are holding top political posts and “wielding political power”.

It said the proliferation of political parties has become a major concern as Section 29A of the RP Act allows a small group of people to form a political party by making a very simple declaration.

“Presently, about 20 per cent of registered political parties contest election and remaining 80 per cent parties create excessive load on electoral system and public money,” the plea said.

The plea also claimed that in 2004, the poll panel had proposed amendment to Section 29A, authorising it to issue apt orders regulating the registration or de-registration of political parties.

By PTI Updated: Apr 10, 2019 10:36:29 pm