The Centre today told the Supreme Court that it has constituted a task force to frame a road-map for implementation of the Law Commission's recommendations on decriminalisation of politics. A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha asked the Centre to file the affidavit during the day on the PIL seeking debarring of convicts for life from contesting polls and stopping them from entering judiciary and the executive and listed it for final hearing on July 10. "Where is the figure as to how many cases are pending against politicians?.. It is the duty of the presiding officer of a court to prioritise hearing in such cases," the bench said, adding it would like to see the response of the Centre. The Ministry of Law and Justice, in its affidavit, told the apex court that the government was actively considering a law panel report titled "Electoral Disqualifications" and appointed a team of senior officials to look into the issue. "The respondent is conscious of the need for electoral reforms in our country, however, electoral reforms is a complex, continuous, long drawn and comprehensive process and the Union of India through legislative department is taking all possible action to deliberate upon measures of electoral reforms required in our country through various forums like consultation, meeting, e-views etc with all stakeholders," the Ministry said. The submissions were made in an affidavit filed by the Ministry in response to a PIL filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking directions to debar convicts from contesting polls for life and stopping them from entering the judiciary and the executive. The Law Ministry said that the disqualification period specified under the Representation of People Act, 1951 is a policy decision which has been enacted by Parliament after due deliberations for curbing the entry of persons with criminal antecedents into the political arena. "This court has held in a catena of cases that no mandamus can lie to the government for framing law or introducing amendments to existing law as framing of policy, setting standards and the making of law falls within the executive domain of the legislature.
It is submitted that the judiciary may step in to fill gaps only where there is s a statutory vacuum, but not where a valid law already occupies the field," it said. On the issue of setting up of special courts for MPs or MLAs for disposal of criminal cases, the Ministry said such a prayer was "unwarranted" as long as cases are disposed of expeditiously within a year. The apex court had earlier asked the Centre and the poll panel to file their responses to the petition, which also seeks a direction to them to fix minimum educational qualification and a maximum age limit for persons contesting elections. "Apart from terrorism and naxalism, the most serious problem our country is facing is extensive corruption and criminalisation of politics. "In the Executive and Judiciary, when a person is convicted for any criminal offence, he/she is suspended automatically and debarred from his services for life. This rule, however, is applied differently in case of convicted persons in the legislature," the petition had said. He had also submitted that decriminalisation of the polity was impossible without debarring convicted persons from electoral politics for life, as done in the case of convicted persons being barred from the executive and judiciary. "We cannot apply different rules to debar convicted persons from judiciary, executive and legislature," he said, adding "even after conviction and undergoing sentence, a convicted person can form his own political party and is eligible to become the office bearer of any political party. It has sought implementation of poll reforms proposed by Election Commission, Law Commission and National Commission to review the working of the Constitution.
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