SC directs political parties to publish criminal antecedents of candidates & give reasons for their selection

Supreme Court:  In a major judgment today, a bench of RF Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has directed all political parties to upload on their website details of pending criminal cases against candidates contesting polls, noting that there has been an alarming increase in criminalisation of politics.

The Court said political parties will also have to upload reasons for selecting candidates with pending criminal cases on their website.

The Court was hearing the contempt petition which brought the Court’s attention to a disregard of the directions of a Constitution Bench of this Court in Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India, (2019) 3 SCC 224 which too cognisance of the increasing criminalisation of politics in India and the lack of information about such criminalisation amongst the citizenry and issued various directions in that regard.

It was brought to the Court’s notice that 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. The Court, hence, issued the following directions:

1) It shall be mandatory for political parties [at the Central and State election level] to upload on their website detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases (including the nature of the offences, and relevant particulars such as whether charges have been framed, the concerned Court, the case number etc.) who have been selected as candidates, along with the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.

2) The reasons as to selection shall be with reference to the qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere “winnability” at the polls.

3) This information shall also be published in:

    • One local vernacular newspaper and one national newspaper;
    • On the official social media platforms of the political party, including Facebook & Twitter.

 4) These details shall be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate or not less than two weeks 4 before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.

5) The political party concerned shall then submit a report of compliance with these directions with the Election Commission within 72 hours of the selection of the said candidate.

6) If a political party fails to submit such compliance report with the Election Commission, the Election Commission shall bring such non-compliance by the political party concerned to the notice of the Supreme Court as being in contempt of this Court’s orders/directions.

[Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 178, decided on 1302.2020]

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