The Law Commission of India has prepared a consultation paper on electoral reforms and has invited feedback from various stakeholders before June 30.

Among the issues that the Commission proposes to focus on are the qualification/disqualification of those seeking election, or disqualification of the persons already elected; modes, methods and quantum of funding of elections; transparency, accountability and sources of spending by political parties and their candidates; filing of false affidavits and spending on advertisements.

The focus of the paper, posted on the Commission’s Web site, relates to what it describes as the ‘decriminalisation of politics and disqualification of candidates’.

“The fitness of a candidate in all respects to contest elections can be seen as connected with the enhancement of the democratic process, free and fair elections and the rule of law. The need to take the law forward on candidate disqualification is thus long felt,” the paper says.

It, therefore, suggests the need for an independent adjudicatory body on the lines of a quasi-judicial tribunal to take decisions on disqualification on the basis of petitions alleging misconduct by a candidate.  “The said body may evolve its own set of parameters to determine the question of disqualification as also to curtail frivolous and motivated complaints with relaxed standards of locus standi,” it says.  

With regard to the role of the media, the paper refers to the phenomenon of ‘paid news’, and believes that the present institutional set-up lacks teeth to curtail this malpractice.  

“There is also a view that the news channels owned or controlled by the political parties or candidates or vested interests engage in prejudiced reporting that affects free and fair elections.  This concern needs consideration keeping in view the right to free speech and expression in the context of elections,” it adds.