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CJI Khehar May Debar Charge-sheeted Candidates from Contesting Elections

Justice JS Khehar takes oath as the new Chief Justice of India at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan on January 4. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, while hearing an application to set up a Constitution bench for deliberating whether tainted candidates can be allowed to contest elections, has described the matter as “top priority”.

Speaking to News18, BJP member Ashwini Upadhyay said an application was moved before the CJI on Thursday to request the urgent setting up of a five-judge Constitution bench as directed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice PC Pant on March 8 last year.

“CJI Khehar has said that this issue would be a top priority and a Constitution bench would be set up at the earliest while agreeing to hear the PIL which seeks to debar a charge-sheeted person from contesting elections,” said Upadhyay.

Senior advocate and former additional solicitor general Vikas Singh, who moved the application on behalf of Upadhyay, told News18 that there is a high possibility that the bench would be set up within a week.

“The matter is of constitutional importance and the CJI has asked the Attorney General and counsels for other petitioners to be informed. The bench would be set up within a week and if the court hears the mater for one whole day, then there is a high possibility that the verdict could come into force before the state assembly election starts.”

The petition submitted by Upadhyay states that more than 33% legislators have criminal cases and Election Commission data shows that criminalisation is increasing every year. It says that expert committees and commissions, including the Goswami Committee, Vohra Committee, Krishnamurti Committee, Indrajeet Gupta Committee, Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission, Justice Venkatchalaiya Commission, Election Commission and Law Commission (244th & 255th Report), have dealt with the problem of criminalisation, but the executive has not yet implemented the recommendations.

Vikas Singh denied naming any individual in the petition. “This is a broader issue keeping in mind the recommendations of the Law Commission which needs urgent implementation. It does not target individuals but seeks an important electoral reform,” he said.