Expressing concern over the alarming rise of criminalisation of politics, the Supreme Court(SC) on Thursday ordered that political parties should publish the criminal history of their candidates for Assembly as well as Lok Sabha polls along with reasons for selecting persons with criminal antecedents over decent people.
GM ADR Amit Verma said, “I don’t think that this move will benefit a lot because even in the earlier judgment, the SC had asked political parties to publish details of their candidates with a criminal background in newspapers, electronic media, thrice during campaigning. However, the diktat was also not followed by political parties. Even if it is mandatory, I am wary that all parties will follow this. We are not satisfied with the judgment of the SC as the main request of the PIL was to not give tickets to those candidates who have a criminal background but SC is avoiding giving that sort of a ruling.”
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat said that a political party will have to provide reasons for giving tickets to a candidate with criminal background instead of picking a person with a clean image.
As per the SC, it would be mandatory for parties to upload the details of criminal history of their candidates on their particular website, on social media and in newspapers within 48 hours of selection. The court orders, “Political parties will have to specify reasons for selecting candidates having pending criminal cases against them on their website,” it stated.
Apart from carrying details on their website, the parties must submit the same details to the Election Commission (EC) of India within 72 hours. “The reason to select candidates should be based on merit and not winnability. Winnability can’t be the only justification,” the top Court said.
The Court also mentioned that if political parties failed to give the details of their candidate or the ECI was unable to implement the directive, it would be considered contempt of Court. The judgment signified the Court’s alarm over the unimpeded rise in the accommodation of criminals often facing heinous charges like rape and murder in the political arena.
Earlier the ECI had urged the Supreme Court , that political parties should not give tickets to candidates with criminal background. ECI also said that 46 per cent of Members of Parliament have criminal records. The Supreme Court’s long strings of judgements against criminalisation of politics have hardly scratched the surface of the deep rot.
The verdict comes on contempt petitions filed by lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and others. In her submission, Upadhyay had alleged that the ECI as well as the Central Government that no serious efforts were made to stop the criminalisation of politics despite the Court order. The petitioner had alleged that the Election Commission had not attempted to implement this order effectively.
A five-judge constitution bench in September 2018 had asked the Central government to immediately enact laws to ban those involved in serious crimes from contesting elections and becoming party officials.
The Court had earlier even ordered that candidates should publish their criminal details in newspapers, electronic media thrice during the campaign season.
After the order by SC, political leaders says it is hard for them to tell whether today’s decision on merit over winnability can be realistically enforced.