Electoral reforms a must for gender justice: report

The three-member committee headed by Justice J S Verma has said that electoral reforms are important for gender justice.

"The electoral reforms in India are integral to the achievement of gender justice and the prevention of sexual offences against women," the panel said in its report and suggested that the Representation of the People Act, 1951, be amended.

Justice Verma pointed towards "criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crime" and expressed the need to bring immediate "political reforms" to address the seething anger among youths which was recently witnessed on the streets of Delhi in the wake of the brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old girl.

The panel pitched for tougher regime to deal with MPs or MLAs convicted for heinous offences like rape and murder.

Verma stated, "I have asked Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister to take action against one of the sitting MLAs for not disclosing the offence for which the MLA was charged."

The panel suggested that candidates against whom a chargesheet on account of sexual assault has been filed in a court should be debarred from fighting elections for at least six years from the time of release from jail. The report said that the Election Commission has been pushing for reforms and had sent a report to Parliament in 1998, but the House has been ignoring its reports.

The Election Commission had recommended that if charges have been framed against a candidate for an offence punishable with imprisonment of five years or more, the candidate should stand disqualified from contesting election.

The proposal was repeated in 2004 by the Election Commission but was again igored by Parliament.

"For us, it is sufficient if a chargesheet has been filed and cognizance taken by a court for the person concerned to be disqualified from contesting elections to either House of Parliament or to the Legislature of a state," the panel said.

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