In a step towards decriminalising politics, the Supreme Court directed that political parties must publish the criminal antecedents of candidates within 48 h* of their selection.
A bench of Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai modified its 13 February 2020, judgment in this regard.
In the February judgment, linked to the Bihar assembly election, the Supreme Court had said candidates must upload these details either within 48 h of their selection or at least two weeks before the first date for filing of nomination papers.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition that sought suspension of the symbol of political parties that do not disclose the criminal backgrounds of their candidates.
Petitions have sought contempt action against political parties for not obeying the February 2020 orders of the Supreme Court.
That verdict had said all political parties had to explain why they chose candidates with criminal cases and disclose details of the cases on their party website along with the reasons for selecting such candidates.
The Election Commission had directed political parties to publish this information on candidates in newspapers.
The CPI(M) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had given an unconditional apology to the Supreme Court for not following orders on disclosing the criminal antecedents of their candidates in the Bihar assembly polls.
The Supreme Court made it mandatory for all political parties to put up the details on their websites and also publish them in two newspapers. The compliance report will have to be submitted to the Election Commission of India within 72 hours of the selection of the candidate.
While delivering its judgment, the Supreme Court noted an “alarming increase of criminals in politics”.
“It appears that over the last four general elections, 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,” Justice Nariman wrote.
Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC) welcomed the verdict at the time, saying it would help deal with the criminalisation of politics.
* Sirf News uses units of measurements of physical quantities as prescribed by Système International d’Unités (SI) and/or the metre-kilogramme-second (MKS) system, according to which the abbreviation of “hour” is “h” and not “hr”, unlike the popular representation of the unit in a large section of the media