NEW DELHI (TIP): How can a Parliament comprising persons with criminal record pass an effective criminal law amendment reform? The Justice JS Verma committee has asked the government this vital question in its report on the anti-rape law. As many as 17 per cent MPs of the current Lok Sabha face heinous offence charges, including crimes against women; two MPs — Semmalai S (AIADMK) and Adhikari Suvendu (TMC) — have stated on oath to the Election Commission that they have been charged with cruelty (IPC 498 A) and use of force on a woman with the intent of outraging her modesty (354 IPC), respectively. In 2009 LS polls, political parties had fielded six candidates who admitted to charges of rape and 34 who admitted to various crimes against women like molestation.

Analysing the trend of unabated fielding of tainted candidates by political parties, the Verma committee has now demanded accountability of politicians and sought a comprehensive law on the internal working of political parties which should filter candidates before fielding them. The panel has mooted amendments to the current Representation of People’s Act 1951 to say that a candidate would be disqualified from election contest once a court takes cognisance of his crime and not essentially once he is convicted for a serious offence (the case presently). “Barring people with criminal records from entering politics would be the easiest way to cleanse lawmaking bodies of the present day malady.

A Parliament which consists of people with criminal records is unlikely to pass any effective Criminal Law Amendment reform because there is a distinct conflict of interest. We hope MPs chargesheeted for criminal offences of a heinous nature demit offices. We can only appeal,” the committee has said. To cleanse the system, it has recommended the adoption of UK Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act-2000 in India and laid down its implementation to enforce the following principles — criteria for admission to a political party; ensuring its internal democracy and code of conduct and refusal by parties to field candidates with criminal history.

In the absence of these checks, tainted candidates are blatantly entering the legislatures and Parliament. Political parties fielded 27 candidates charged with rape in different Assembly elections during the past five years; six of them won. Three belong to the Samajwadi Party; one each to the BSP; the BJP and the TDP. Over the past 10 years, 20% people elected to various state assemblies and Lok Sabha are such who have been either charged with or convicted for heinous offences, including rape. The Verma panel further discovered another anomaly in the current laws. Though the RP Act requires MPs/MLAs to give affidavits to the EC declaring charges framed against them in heinous offences, it doesn’t give EC the power to verify these affidavits. On receipt of false information, a returning officer is allowed to simply file a complaint to the magistrate for prosecuting the MP/MLA under Section 125 A of the RP Act which prescribes a punishment.

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