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Criminals in politics: SC orders parties to name them!

New Delhi: Coming down heavily on increasing criminalisation of politics, the Supreme Court of India, on Thursday, directed all political parties to publish their candidates’ details within 48 hours on their respective party’s websites and media, including social media handles, newspapers and electronic media.

These details on criminal history of the candidate must include any criminal charges, offences and trial stages their candidates in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections faces. Also, it directed the parties to clarify why a particular politician, facing charges, was being fielded to contest polls. “Winnability cannot be the only justification for giving tickets.”

A Bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman took note of the “alarming” rise in number of election candidates’ with criminal backgrounds and said this is the first time when top court was using its extraordinary powers in the interest of informed citizenry.

In its ruling on a petition filed by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay and Rambabu Singh Thakur, the court said that it will consider as ‘contempt of court’ if any candidate of any party or political group did not follow the order.

Accordingly, the parties had also been directed to clarify to the Election Commission the reasons for choice of candidates, and all details must be published on websites or newspaper..

The political parties have been asked to furnish a compliance report with the Election Commission about complying with the Supreme Court’s directions, failure of which can lead to the initiation of contempt proceedings. 

The petitioners had complained that the Election Commission had failed to abide by the directions laid down by the Constitution Bench in 2018 with respect to the decriminalization of politics.

In its September 25, 2018 judgment, the apex court had suggested enactment of a strong law to decriminalize politics, and also issued directions to contesting candidates to disclose details of pending criminal cases against him/her in the form provided by the EC.

It had ordered political parties to publicise on their websites and in print and electronic media about the criminal antecedents of its candidates. But the EC did not make the necessary amendments to the rules.

The Supreme Court’s instructions came soon after the Delhi Assembly elections wherein more than half of the MLAS face criminal cases, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an NGO associated with the Election Commission.

According to ADR, 37 of 70 newly-elected MLAs of Delhi Assembly facing serious criminal charges.

In fact, the number of Delhi MLAs with criminal cases has nearly doubled — from 24 in 2015 to 43 in 2020. The number of MLAs with serious criminal offences, including rape and attempt to murder, is 37.

(VINAYAK)

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