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India

‘Why shouldn’t netas with less than 2-year prison term be disallowed from contesting polls?’

Highlights

CHANDIGARH: Punjab and Haryana high court has issued notice to the Centre on a public interest litigation that wants the rule to disqualify a person from contesting parliamentary and assembly elections to cover even those convicted politicians who are sentenced to imprisonment for less than two years in a criminal case. Currently, only those who are awarded jail term of two years and more are barred from contesting polls. The PIL refers to Article 14 of the Constitution - right to equality - to buttress its argument.
“It is contended that Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, by segregating imprisonment terms of less than two years as non-actionable grounds of disqualification, is, in fact, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, as it seeks to create an artificial classification in the same group. Prima facie, there appears to be force in the submission made and the issue requires scrutiny,” observed a division bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli while seeking the Centre’s response on the issue.
The PIL was filed by a Supreme Court judicial clerk, Ganesh Khemka, who recently graduated from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.
Khemka appeared in person before the HC last week and argued that criminal conviction under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 is not an absolute electoral disqualification for the representatives. While sections 8(1) and (2) provide for disqualification for a pre-enlisted set of crimes, section 8(3) disqualifies a representative only if the conviction is for a period of two years and above.
The next hearing in the case has been fixed for November 6.
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