EC: Parties mustn’t field those with criminal taint

SC seeks suggestions to end criminalisation of politics

EC: Parties mustn’t field those with criminal taint

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 24

Admitting that declaration of criminal antecedents by candidates has not helped curb criminalisation of politics in India, the Election Commission on Friday told the Supreme Court that political parties should be asked not to give ticket to candidates with criminal antecedents. 

A Bench headed by Justices Rohinton F Nariman asked the Election Commission to suggest within a week a framework to check criminalisation of politics in the nation’s interest after senior counsel Vikas Singh, representing the poll panel, said that the 2018 directions had not helped check criminalisation of politics. Singh said accountability should be fixed on political parties and they should be asked not to field candidates with criminal background.

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The Bench asked petitioner Delhi BJP leader and advocate Ashiwini Upadhyay and the poll panel to sit together and come up with suggestions which would help curb criminalisation of politics.

The direction came after the commission told the top court that its September 25, 2018, direction asking candidates to declare their criminal antecedents in the media did not yield the desired results in curbing criminalisation of politics.

“Given the situation and current composition of Parliament, we can assume that a law will not be passed to prohibit criminalisation of politics and disqualify those charged with serious criminal offences,” Singh submitted. On behalf of Upadhyay, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan said currently 46% of the parliamentarians had criminal antecedents and in this scenario it could not be assumed that a law would be passed in this regard.

Displaying judicial restraint, a five-judge Constitution Bench had in September 2018 refrained from debarring politicians facing serious criminal charges from contesting polls and instead left it to Parliament to enact a law to rid Indian politics of criminals.

However, the Bench had directed a tainted candidate to fill in particulars about his/her criminal antecedents in bold letters while filing the nomination paper and asked his/her political party to put out such information on its website to enable voters to take an informed decision.

“The candidate as well as the political party concerned shall issue a declaration in the widely circulated newspapers in the locality about the antecedents of the candidate and also give wide publicity in the electronic media. When we say wide publicity, we mean that the same shall be done at least thrice after filing of the nomination papers,” the Bench had unanimously ordered.

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