Indian media: Threat to electoral reforms

India parliament
Image caption More than a quarter of India's MPs admit they face criminal charges

Media and analysts in India feel that the government's move to "overrule" a Supreme Court order that barred convicted lawmakers from holding office poses a threat to electoral reforms.

The court, in an order in July, had said that federal and state assembly members would be barred from elections and removed from office if found guilty of offences carrying a jail term of at least two years.

The order was seen by many as an attempt by the court to "clean-up politics".

More than 150 MPs in the 543-seat lower house of parliament are said to be facing criminal charges.

However, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on Tuesday signed off on an ordinance to "negate" the court's order and "soften the blow on convicted MPs and legislators".

"This is a regressive move that militates against the judiciary's salutary intervention towards decriminalisation of politics at a time when the political class is dragging its feet on long-delayed electoral reforms," says The New Indian Express.

The Times of India says the government has lost an opportunity to use the court's order "to weed out criminal elements" from politics.

"The only people who will gain from this move are those not merely accused but convicted of serious offences. Everybody else, and our democracy, will be a loser," the paper adds.

Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagaran feels the government has tarnished its image by showing more interest in protecting convicted politicians than reforming the system.

"The government move could backfire as it may not go down well with the electorate, especially urban voters, ahead of state polls that lead up to the general election next year," says financial daily the Mint.

The ordinance gives temporary relief to convicted lawmakers and it can become law only if approved by the parliament within six months.

The government says it brought in the ordinance to ensure that MPs are able to finish their current term, but analysts seem to disagree.

"The haste with which the government moved is likely to put the credibility of all the political parties at stake. There is no urgent situation that the government had to issue an ordinance without waiting for the winter session to debate it and pass it," the Mint quoted Balveer Arora, a Delhi-based political analyst, as saying.

Social media concerns

Meanwhile, papers, including The Tribune and the Deccan Herald, have expressed their concerns over the role of social media in inciting recent communal tensions in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The police are investigating the role of a fake video, circulated via social media, in instigating tensions.

Meanwhile, former army chief VK Singh has rejected allegations that the army gave money to ministers in Indian-administered Kashmir as bribe during his tenure, reports the Hindustan Times.

"When I had said some politicians were given money, it was not meant for their personal purpose or political purpose. It was not for lining their pockets or for bribe. If somebody says that any minister was given a bribe, it is totally wrong. It was meant solely for stability, to win hearts and minds of people, to wean people away from separatist activities under the overall umbrella of sadbhavna (harmony)," the paper quoted him as saying.

In international news, a Pakistani judicial team is visiting India to record statements of witnesses in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, The Indian Express reports.

"The judicial commission is visiting in connection with the ongoing trial in a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court against seven Lashkar-e-Taiba [banned Pakistan-based militant group] men allegedly involved in the Mumbai attacks," the paper adds.

And finally, badminton champion PV Sindhu says she is "motivated to bring more laurels to the country" after receiving the prestigious Arjuna award from the government, The Hindu reports.

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