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Thursday 2 April 2020

Supreme Court orders parties to share candidates’ criminal records

The highest court of the country ordered political parties to share such information with the people via newspapers, websites and social networking sites

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In order to free politics from the clutches of criminals, the Supreme Court on Thursday gave an important order, asking political parties to put forward the criminal record of the candidates who are going to the polls. The court said that it should upload the criminal records of the candidates on the site.

The apex court further warned the parties that contempt action can be taken against them if this order is not followed.

Hearing a contempt petition filed by lawyer and BJP politician Ashwini Upadhyay, the court asked political parties to publish criminal records of their candidates on newspapers, websites and social sites.

A bench of justices RF Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat said that political parties would have to explain why they gave tickets to a candidate with a criminal background rather than a candidate with a clean image. The court has rejected the argument of ‘winning candidate’.

This was indeed a directive of the Supreme Court in 2018 that the political parties have been ignoring with gay abandon. Now contempt proceedings can be initiated against them for not abiding by that two-year-old order.

Along with this, he questioned the parties, what is their compulsion that they give tickets to candidates of criminal background. Political parties must submit a compliance report to the Election Commission within 72 hours of selecting a candidate against whom criminal cases are pending. The Election Commission will bring it to the notice of the apex court if the political parties fail to follow the court system on the candidates against whom criminal cases are pending.

Upadhyay, while filing a petition against the giving of tickets to tainted leaders, said that the government or Election Commission has not made any serious effort in the last six months to remove criminals from politics. During the hearing, the Election Commission told the court that increasing the number of MPs with criminal cases is disturbing. As per the current data, 43% of the MPs in Parliament have criminal cases.

Expressing concern over the increasing criminalization in politics, the Supreme Court said that criminalization in politics has increased rapidly since the last four general elections. Earlier, the poll panel had told the court that 24% of MPs had criminal backgrounds in 2004, but the number of such MPs rose to 30% in 2009 and 34% in 2014. According to the Election Commission, 43% of MPs in the current Lok Sabha are fighting felony cases against them. The situation in the state elections and legislatures is no different.

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