As India heads towards the next general election, political parties are finding it difficult to cope with a slew of Supreme Court verdicts that aim to change the rules of the game.
Coming in quick succession, the orders - ranging from seeking transparency in the functioning of political parties to what they can promise voters, and who they can field - have squeezed their manoeuvring space.
Even before the political class could properly articulate its response to a Central Information Commission verdict declaring political parties as ‘public authorities' under the RTI Act, the SC delivered three verdicts in July, making it difficult for them to get votes the usual way.
Holding that freebies vitiate the election process, the court on July 5 directed the Election Commission to frame guidelines in consultation with political parties to regulate the contents of poll manifestos.
It delivered twin verdicts on July 10 – immediate disqualification of MPs and MLAs on conviction attracting a jail term of two years or more and a ban on persons contesting polls while in lawful custody.
It declared unconstitutional a section of the Representation of the People Act that protected a convicted MP or MLA from disqualification on filing an appeal.
According to a survey by NGO Avaaz, which has been running a campaign to de-criminalise politics, more than 97% Indians want criminals out of Parliament.
"Politicians love big majorities, and over 97% of people want convicted MPs to be forced out of office. The Supreme Court ruling should stand," Avaaz executive director Ricken Patel said.
But, political parties want to overturn the twin SC verdicts.
In 2002, when the SC made it mandatory for candidates to declare their educational qualifications, assets, liabilities and criminal antecedents, if any, the NDA government promulgated an ordinance to undo it.
But the SC declared the amendment illegal in 2003.
Will history repeat itself?