Publish details of criminal cases against candidates on website, newspapers: Supreme Court to political parties

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed political parties to publish credentials, achievements and criminal antecedents of candidates on newspaper, social media platforms and on their website while giving a reason for selection of candidate with criminal antecedents.

A bench, headed by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat, asked political parties to adduce reasons for selection of candidates with criminal antecedents.

Political parties must also justify why they could not select clean candidates, the Apex Court said and added that winnability cannot be the only justification for choosing tainted candidates.

The Top Court also asked the Election Commission of India to file contempt petition if political parties do not not comply with the order.

The Apex Court passed the order on a contempt plea filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay.

The petitioner claimed that the directions given by the Top Court in its September 2018 verdict relating to disclosure of criminal antecedents by poll candidates were not being followed.

Recently, the EC had made a proposition before the apex court to ask political parties to not give the ticket to those with criminal antecedents.

Election Commission and petitioner Upadhyay had submitted to the apex court a framework jointly prepared as ‘Criminal Antecedents of Candidates (Reporting and Publication) Order, 2020’.

The proposal submitted by them has mandated rejection of the nomination of candidates and suspension of the symbol of political parties.

It noted that there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics. In 2004, 24 per cent MPs had criminal cases pending against them, while in 2009 it reached 30 per cent. In 2014 the number went up to 34 percent and in 2019 it reached 43 per cent.

The five-judge Constitution Bench in 2018 judgment had requested the Parliament to bring a “strong law” to cleanse political parties of leaders facing trial for serious crimes.

The top court had said that the rapid criminalisation of politics cannot be arrested by merely disqualifying tainted legislators but “should begin by cleansing the political parties”.

The Supreme Court in 2018 had suggested that Parliament should frame a law that makes it obligatory for political parties to remove leaders charged with “heinous and grievous” crimes like rape, murder and kidnapping, and other offenses, and refuse ticket to offenders in both parliamentary and Assembly polls.

It had also issued guidelines, including that both the candidate and the political party should declare the criminal antecedents of the candidate in widely-circulated newspapers and electronic media as well.