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Disastrous to quash sections of RP Act: court

By Our Legal Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MARCH 29. A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking the quashing of certain provisions of the Representation of the People Act that provide for disqualification of candidates convicted for more than two years.

A three-judge Bench, comprising the Chief Justice V.N. Khare, Justice G.P. Mathur and Justice S.H. Kapadia, told the petitioner, Lily Thomas, advocate, that it would be disastrous to quash the provisions and asked her to amend the petition to make the existing laws more stringent to prevent criminals from contesting elections.

The Bench said: "If we strike down Sections 8 and 9 of the RP Act, it will be disastrous for democracy as everybody would then be entitled to contest the elections." Under the provisions, conviction itself was not a ground for disqualification but the quantum of sentence awarded was the sole ground for debarring them from contesting elections, the Bench said.

Under the provisions of the RP Act, any person convicted and sentenced to more than two years would be disqualified for contesting elections for six years from the date of his release from prison after serving the sentence.

In another petition, the Bench asked a litigant, N. Kunju, to file by April 19 the memorandum of association (MoA) of 23 political parties to examine his request to ban those that assemble and organise on the basis of religion.

The petitioner was asked to file the MoA of the Muslim League in Kerala, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the All-India Christian Democratic and Backward People's Party, the Hindu Samaj Party, the Indian Muslim League Congress, the Indian Union Muslim League, the Islamic Party of India, the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, the All-India Muslim Forum, the Bharatiya Hindu Sena among others.

The petitioner stated that Section 29 of the RP Act provided that the Election Commission could derecognise the parties which did not owe true faith and allegiance to the Constitution and to the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy. The petitioner said that "these political parties assembled in the name of religion are trying to convert the religious Indian voters into communal persons and thereby destroying the quality of democracy and secularism."

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