Supreme Court says it can’t ban criminals in politics, leaves it to Parliament
The Supreme Court has declined to ban politicians with criminal cases from contesting elections but underlined that it is time Parliament enacts laws to ensure that people with criminal cases do not enter politics.
Society has a right to be governed by better people, the judges said while observing that politicians with criminal cases must be “kept at bay”.
Such a law should be enacted as soon as possible, it said.
“The sooner the better, before it becomes fatal to democracy,” a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said.
Nearly 1,700 MPs and MLAs, a little over a third of all elected representatives in India, face criminal charges.
Under the existing law, politicians are banned from contesting elections for six years only if they are convicted for the crime. Also, there is nothing to stop convicted politicians from heading political parties.
A bunch of petitions filed before the Supreme Court had argued that this should change.
The judges ruled that the court was not in a position to add a disqualification to bar people with criminal cases from entering politics or contesting elections. So it cannot declare that legislators who have been charged of serious offences should be disqualified.
But the court lamented the state of affairs.
“Our Indian democracy has seen a steady increase in the level of criminalization creeping into Indian polity. This tends to disrupt constitutional ethos, strikes at the root of democratic form of government and makes citizens suffer,” the judges said.
During arguments in the case, the centre’s top law officer KK Venugopal had opposed suggestions that the top court could assume the power to make laws that was the prerogative of the legislature.
The bench had then countered him, saying it understood the concept of separation of powers and could not direct Parliament to make a law, but the “question is what can we do to contain the rot”.