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February 14, 2018
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How could a convict head political party, asks Indian CJ

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February 14, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: India’s Chief Justice Dipak Misra, while addressing the government and the Election Commission of India (ECI), has questioned the logic behind having a criminal and corrupt person as the head of a political party.

He said such a lapse was a huge blow to the purity of the election process. "A man cannot directly contest an election, so he constitutes a group of persons to form a political party and contest an election. People can form an association of people to do philanthropic activities like have a hospital or a school. But when it comes to the field of governance, it is different," he said.

Far worse is the prospect of democracy when such a criminal at the head of political party has the power and authority to choose candidates who would contest elections under his party's banner, Misra observed at the head of a three-judge Bench.

The court said having a criminal decide who the people should vote for, by itself, goes against the basic tenet of democracy. "How can a convicted person be an office-bearer of a political party and select candidates to contest elections? This goes against our judgements that corruption in politics [are] to be ostracised from the purity of elections," Chief Justice Misra orally observed, addressing the government and the Election Commission of India (ECI).

"So, is it that what you cannot do individually [that is contest elections], you can do collectively through some of your agents" the Chief Justice asked. In December last, the Indian Supreme Court agreed to examine whether the ECI should be empowered to deregister a political party on the ground that a convicted person has either formed it or is a crucial office-bearer.

Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who filed the petition, reasoned that if a convicted person could be banned from contesting elections, he or she should be also debarred from heading a political party and controlling other elected members of his or her party.

The petition names leaders like the RJD's Lalu Prasad, who was convicted in the fodder scam cases, and INLD leader O.P. Chautala, who was found guilty in the junior teachers recruitment scam.

“Presently, even a person who has been convicted for heinous crimes like murder, rape, smuggling, money laundering, sedition, loot, dacoity etc. can form a political party and become party president,” the petition contended.

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