Tuesday, July 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Parties reject EC order
To pass Bill in Monsoon Session
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
In a rare show of unanimity, the country’s political parties today united to prevent efforts to encroach on their legislative competence. They decided to introduce and pass a Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament to replace the recent Election Commission guidelines to check the criminalisation of politics and corruption in public life.

Briefing newspersons about the three-hour meeting attended by representatives of 21 major national and regional political parties at Parliament House this morning, Union Law and Justice Minister K. Jana Krishnamurthi said the draft of the Bill would be given to the political parties by this weekend for their comments and suggestions.

Another meeting of political parties would be held next week to ascertain their views on the draft bill, which would be introduced in the Monsoon Session of Parliament beginning July 15. It would be the government’s endeavour to get the Bill passed “as quickly as possible,” the Minister said.

Mr Krishnamurthi said all political parties were unanimous in holding that while the Supreme Court directive of May 2 to check criminalisation of politics was laudable, it was within the domain of Parliament to enact laws and no other Constitutional authority could take over this job.

“We do not want a confrontation with the Supreme Court. But, each Constitutional authority has its sphere of functioning and Parliament’s role is supreme when it comes to enactment of laws,” he added.

The Minister said once Parliament enacts a law on curbing criminalisation of politics, the EC guidelines of June 28, issued following a Supreme Court directive of May 2 would be automatically bypassed.

The Minister said the EC guidelines, making it mandatory for candidates to disclose their assets, educational qualifications and any criminal records, had not taken into account “practical ground realities” faced by to the contestants.

This would make the filing of nomination papers a cumbersome process and the general view among political parties was that nomination forms should be as simple as possible.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who attended the meeting, took note of the observations made by the members and said the poll process should not be “complicated by impractical and unnecessary road blocks,” Mr Krishnamurthi said.

On the setting up of a National Judicial Commission for the appointment, transfer and superintendence of Supreme Court and High Court judges, the government today asked all political parties to give their views in writing.

Meanwhile, Law Ministry sources said another all-party meeting would be convened at the earliest to discuss and finalise the suggestions of the parties on the draft Bill and then a final shape would be given to it for introduction on July 15, the first day of the Monsoon Session.

In view of the unanimity among the parties on the issue, the Bill is expected to sail through by a voice vote, they said.

The sources said that political parties rejected in toto the suggestion of the Supreme Court that the candidates should declare their educational qualification.

When asked whether the Bill was meant to nullify the directives of the Supreme Court, the Law Minister said “We appreciate the Supreme Court judgement. There is no scope for any type of confrontation between Parliament and the Supreme Court because each one is supreme in its own sphere. Even the Supreme Court has recognised that as far as the enactment of law is concerned, Parliament is supreme.”

On the law to be enacted, he said “this will be in tune with the Supreme Court order, which has specified that the EC notification would operate till Parliament enacts a law. Once the law is enacted, the notification would become redundant.”

“The Government will do its best to achieve the objective with which the Supreme Court approached the issue of curbing criminalisation of politics and making the electoral system more transparent,” he said.

“The substantial increase in the literacy rate is reflected among the MPs too. In the first Lok Sabha, the percentage of non-matriculates was around 25 while in the present Lok Sabha, their number constituted a meagre 2.4 per cent,” he added.



Poll panel stands by its directive
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
The Election Commission today made it clear that its order requiring candidates to disclose their criminal antecedents in the form of an affidavit along with their nomination papers will remain in force despite an all-party meeting rejecting the move.

Pointing out that the rejection of the Election Commission’s direction by the all-party meeting had no legislative or legal backing, commission sources said the Election Commission’s direction would remain in force.

“The commission is only following a Supreme Court directive,” EC sources said.

Prescribing the affidavit, the commission had made it clear that non-furnishing of full and complete information by a candidate would be considered violative of the court’s directive.

It may be recalled that the commission went ahead with the implementation of the Supreme Court directives, turning down a request by the government to seek a fresh directive from the apex court on the issue since it was due to hold an all-party meeting to discuss the matter.

The government had made the request when the commission had informed it about the court order and said that the affidavit should form part of the nomination papers and that the government may accordingly amend the Conduct of Election Rules through an executive order.

Subsequently, when the government did not respond positively to its suggestion, the commission went ahead with the implementation of the court directive.



SAD backs EC order, MLAs to declare assets
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 8
Taking a stand different from all other political parties, the SAD (Badal) today supported the directive given by the Supreme Court for electoral reforms and the steps taken by the Election Commission of India in this connection.

Addressing mediapersons, Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, a spokesman of SAD, said today that his party was all for such reforms and wanted that these should be implemented immediately.

Interestingly, Mr Manpreet Singh said that no one from his party had attended the meeting of political parties held on this issue in Delhi today. However, certain TV channels, which telecast shots of the meeting, showed senior SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa attending the meeting.

Mr Manpreet Singh said the reforms were the need of the hour and should be supported by all for strengthening the democratic setup and to cleanse public life.

Meanwhile, to put Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on the defensive, SAD has decided to declare the assets of all its MLAs before the Speaker before the next session. Mr Manpreet Singh Badal said, that in fact, the Chief Minister, who had made a promise before the elections that all his MLAs would declare their assets should have taken the lead in this connection. The CM’s statement that the assets of his party MLAs would be declared before the Congress party’s ethics committee was an eyewash. As these MLAs had been elected by people of Punjab, they should declare their assets in the Punjab Assembly, he reasoned.


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