June 14, 2021
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'Block Their Election Route'

The retired NHRC chairman on the politician-criminal nexus

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'Block Their Election Route'
'Block Their Election Route'

After retiring from the chairmanship of National Human Rights Commission, Chief Justice J.S. Verma is planning to write a book based on his reminiscences. Talking to Outlook Saptahik he suggested that his book will try to depict a picture of the contemporary society based on his 26 years of experience. Excerpts:

With the kind of politicians coming forth, do you see any future for the country?

I am optimistic. The reason for that is the common man. It’s true that better causes were being served using the tools of the constitution. Although the tools are still available, these are not being used today. The youth have energy, talent and sentiment, but materialism is spreading as a result of globalization. Even though the common man doesn’t say a word, even though he is helpless, yet when the time comes, he has an answer. Look at what happened in 1977 and 1980.

Then why are criminals winning elections?

It is true that winning elections without obscene sums of money and resources isn’t easy. Where would true representatives come from in such a situation? But it must be kept in mind that contesting elections is a statutory right, not a fundamental right. That is why the inefficiencies that wrong people use as a route to contest elections must be blocked.

Where are such attempts being made?

Do you remember the order I issued in 1980 in the case of ex chief minister VC Shukla at Jabalpur? I said that the person, who has been punished, should not be allowed to contest election until he is proven innocent, even if he has gone for an appeal. Although the Supreme Court relieved him then, but what happened afterwards? Look at Jayalalithaa’s case.

But it is being said that the returning officer shouldn’t be allowed to give permission for contesting elections?

This is correct. But no one is talking about giving him authority. There has been talk about getting the candidates to file an affidavit at the time of nomination. Returning officer will only see to it, within 24 hours, whether affidavit is correct. If the things stated in it are incorrect, then there are courts. After all aren’t election petitions filed?

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