Pub­lish crim­i­nal history of can­di­dates, SC or­ders par­ties

The judg­ment is ap­pli­ca­ble to or­gan­i­sa­tions both at the Cen­tral and State lev­els

The Hindu - - FRONT PAGE - Kr­ish­nadas Ra­jagopal

The Supreme Court on Thurs­day or­dered po­lit­i­cal par­ties to pub­lish the en­tire crim­i­nal history of their can­di­dates for the As­sem­bly and Lok Sabha elections along with the rea­sons that goaded them to field sus­pected crim­i­nals over de­cent people.

The in­for­ma­tion should be pub­lished in a lo­cal and a na­tional news­pa­per as well as the par­ties’ so­cial me­dia han­dles. It should manda­to­rily be pub­lished ei­ther within 48 hours of the se­lec­tion of can­di­dates or less than two weeks be­fore the first date for fil­ing of nom­i­na­tions, which­ever is ear­lier.

A Bench led by Jus­tice Ro­hin­ton F. Na­ri­man, in the judg­ment, or­dered po­lit­i­cal par­ties to sub­mit com­pli­ance re­ports with the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of In­dia within 72 hours or risk con­tempt of court ac­tion.

The judg­ment is ap­pli­ca­ble to par­ties both at the

Cen­tral and State lev­els.

The judg­ment by the Bench, also com­pris­ing Jus­tice S. Ravin­dra Bhat, sig­ni­fied the court’s alarm at the unim­peded rise of crim­i­nals, of­ten facing heinous charges like rape and mur­der, en­croach­ing into the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal and elec­toral realms.

De­tailed in­for­ma­tion

The pub­lished in­for­ma­tion on the crim­i­nal an­tecedents of a can­di­date should be de­tailed and in­clude the na­ture of the of­fences, charges framed against him, the court con­cerned and the case num­ber.

A po­lit­i­cal party should ex­plain to the pub­lic through its pub­lished ma­te­rial how the “qual­i­fi­ca­tions or achieve­ments or merit” of a can­di­date, charged with a crime, im­pressed it enough to cast aside the smear of his crim­i­nal back­ground.

A party would have to give rea­sons to the voter that it was not the can­di­date’s “mere winnabil­ity at the polls” which guided its de­ci­sion to give him the ticket.

“It ap­pears that over the last four gen­eral elections, there has been an alarm­ing in­crease in the in­ci­dence of crim­i­nals in pol­i­tics. In 2004, 24% of the Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment had crim­i­nal cases pend­ing against them; in 2009, that went up to 30%; in 2014 to 34%; and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had crim­i­nal cases pend­ing against them,” Jus­tice Na­ri­man wrote.

The four-page judg­ment

was based on a con­tempt pe­ti­tion filed by ad­vo­cate Ash­wini Upad­hyay about the gen­eral dis­re­gard shown by po­lit­i­cal par­ties to a 2018 Con­sti­tu­tion Bench judg­ment (Pub­lic In­ter­est Foun­da­tion v. Union of In­dia )to pub­lish the crim­i­nal de­tails of can­di­dates in their re­spec­tive web­sites and print as well as elec­tronic me­dia for pub­lic aware­ness.

“In this judg­ment (2018), this court was cog­nisant of the in­creas­ing crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of pol­i­tics in In­dia and the lack of in­for­ma­tion about such crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion among the cit­i­zenry,” Jus­tice Na­ri­man ob­served.

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