The Hindu : News / National : Disappointed Quraishi writes to Manmohan EC wants to prevent criminals from entering the corridors of power With the government failing to introduce the electoral reforms Bill in the budget session, a disappointed Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi has now taken up the issue directly with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Election Commission wants to decriminalise politics and prevent criminals from entering the corridors of power. On Friday, he wrote to Dr. Singh stressing the need for early introduction and passage of the Bill. Though the EC was assured that the Bill would be introduced in the winter session last year, it did not see the light of day, thanks to furore in Parliament over the Lokpal issue. The EC has been seeking reforms since 1998 and the focus is on preventing those with a criminal background from contesting elections. It has proposed that a person be disqualified if charges against him/her are framed by court for an offence punishable with imprisonment of five years or more. Under the existing law, a person will be disqualified once he/she is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more for offences under the IPC. Conviction and sentencing for one-year RI under the Prevention of Corruption Act can attract disqualification from contesting elections. The EC also wants reforms for political parties, particularly introduction of legal provisions to regulate them. It wants to be empowered to regulate recognition and de-recognition of parties. This was first proposed in July 1998. Among other things, the EC wants the parties to be legally required to get their accounts audited annually and put in the public domain, and transparency in their fund-raising and expenditure. The EC also wants to prevent misuse of religion for electoral gain, and paid news made an electoral offence. Mr. Quraishi told The Hindu a few months ago: â€œIn fact, we made some suggestions to the government on state funding of elections when the draft Bill was circulated to the Commission. It is to be seen what suggestions of the Commission have been included in the Bill by the government.â€ Informed sources said the Bill, part of which dealt with â€œdecriminalisation of politics,â€ had inbuilt measures to prevent its misuse as it had specified that the provision would not apply in cases where charges were framed in court less than six months before the date of elections. The EC wants the government to hold consultations with the recognised parties before introducing the Bill. The EC had even suggested providing a button in electronic voting machines, giving voters the right to reject wrong candidates. This could be done by pressing the â€œnone of the aboveâ€ button. Thus the possibility of wrong candidates getting elected would be averted and, at the same time, ballot secrecy would be maintained, the sources said. EC sources said Law Minister Salman Khurshid came to the Commission a third time and gave an assurance that the government would bring about major reforms in the winter session (2011). Meanwhile, the Centre for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI) said Mr. Quraishi had informed it that a three-member committee, headed by senior Chief Electoral Officer Sudhir Tripathi and consisting of representatives from the EC and the Law Commission, had been set up to study the demand for a proportional representation system. The committee would look into the ways and means of ushering in the proportional representation system, a CERI release said. The committee would have its first meeting next week with CERI.