Fresh step to shut convicts out of polls
The caretaker government is incorporating a new provision in the Representation of People Order (RPO) Ordinance 2008 to bar individuals convicted by a trial court of criminal offences involving moral turpitude from contesting elections.
At present, due to the lack of specific legal provisions an individual convicted by a trial court of such criminal offences can participate in elections while their appeal against the conviction is pending with the higher court.
The new provision drafted by the Election Commission (EC) upon government desire says such a convict will be disqualified from contesting the parliamentary polls while their appeal against the trial court verdict is pending with a higher court.
Due to loopholes in the existing electoral laws individuals convicted by the trial courts have come up as candidates for the August 4 city corporation polls. Sources said Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed himself recently expressed concern about how to prevent this.
Asked by the chief adviser, senior officials of his office communicated with the EC and requested it to look into the matter. Following the government's desire, the EC drafted the new proposal.
The draft was supposed to be sent to the government yesterday for incorporation into the draft RPO, the sources added.
The advisory council last Sunday approved in principle the RPO 2008 to conduct the parliamentary elections. The draft will be made laws through the promulgation of an ordinance by scrapping the existing laws.
The law ministry is now vetting the draft ordinance and will send it back to the cabinet for final approval.
On getting the final approval, the president will promulgate the ordinance at the end of this month.
According to the draft RPO 2008, criminal offences involving moral turpitude include extortion, theft, misappropriation of property, violation of oath, rape, murder and also criminal misconduct defined in the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947.
However, the draft does not specify whether an aspirant candidate is disqualified from contesting polls on such conviction or is allowed to contest the polls as long as an appeal against the verdict is pending in a court, which might go on until the appeal is adjudicated in the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
The draft ordinance only refers to the constitutional provision for disqualification from contesting polls.
According to the constitution, a person shall be disqualified from contesting elections if they are convicted of criminal offences involving moral turpitude and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of minimum two years, and unless a period of five years has elapsed since the individual's release.
There has been a debate over the interpretation of the term "conviction" as to whether it means conviction by a trial court or a final conclusive conviction after all appeals have been disposed of.
However, once the amendment is done to the RPO with the specific provision, none will be allowed to contest the polls after being convicted by a trial court of criminal offences involving moral turpitude, said legal experts.
Lauding the government's move, they said if made into a law, the provision would also be applicable to determine disqualifications of candidates for elections to the local government bodies.
Many detained politicians who might be convicted by the trial court of such criminal offences will also be disqualified from contesting the upcoming parliamentary polls while their appeals against the conviction remain pending with the higher court.
According to the Emergency Power Rules (EPR), individuals convicted by the trial court under the EPR will be disqualified from contesting the elections while their appeals against the conviction are pending.