Supreme Court(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
Supreme Court(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

Give ticket to candidates with criminal history or deny? SC to rule today

In its September 25, 2018, judgment, the top court had suggested enactment of a strong law to decriminalize politics.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 13, 2020 05:14 AM IST

The Supreme Court on Thursday will pronounce its verdict on steps to be taken to address the problem of criminalisation of politics. In its judgment, the court is expected to decide whether directions can be issued to political parties to deny tickets to candidates with criminal background.

The judgment will be pronounced by a bench of justices Rohinton Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat in contempt petitions which pointed out that despite repeated directions by the apex court, the government and election commission had failed to take steps for decriminalisation of politics.

The Election Commission of India (EC), during the hearing on January 24, acknowledged that the directions issued by the Supreme Court in 2018 to give publicity to the criminal antecedents of candidates contesting elections failed to yield the desired result of decriminalizing politics.

In its September 25, 2018, judgment, the top court had suggested enactment of a strong law to decriminalize politics. It had 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.

Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, one of the petitioners, submitted that pursuant to the judgment, the EC issued directions to political parties and candidates to publish criminal antecedents.

But the EC did not make the necessary amendments to the rules governing this field - election symbols order and model code of conduct - and hence the directions by EC did not have any legal sanction.

Further, the EC did not publish a list of leading newspapers and news channels wherein criminal antecedents of the contesting candidates had to be publicised. Upadhyay claimed that political parties took advantage of the same and published criminal antecedents in unpopular newspapers and news channels and at odd hours when people don’t watch TV.

The plea said that the consequences of permitting criminals to contest elections and become legislators are extremely serious.

“During the electoral process itself, not only do they deploy enormous amounts of illegal money to interfere with the outcome, they also intimidate voters and rival candidates. Thereafter, in our weak rule-of-law context, once they gain entry to our system of governance, they interfere with and influence functioning of government in favour of themselves”, the petition stated.

Upadhyay prayed that one of the conditions for the recognition of a political party should be that it shall not field a candidate with criminal antecedents in elections.

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