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Disclosure of Criminal Antecedents by Election Candidates: SC to Pass Order Tomorrow on Contempt Plea

PTI

Last Updated: February 12, 2020, 22:00 IST

A view of the Supreme Court building.

A view of the Supreme Court building.

A bench, which on January 31 reserved its order on the plea, observed that the issue of penalising political parties or candidates for not disclosing criminal antecedents has to be dealt with carefully as serious allegations with "political overtones" are often being made against candidates.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce its order on Thursday on a contempt plea, which has raised the issue of criminalisation of politics and claimed that the directions given by the apex court in its September 2018 verdict relating to disclosure of criminal antecedents by poll candidates were not being followed.

A bench headed by Justice RF Nariman, which on January 31 reserved its order on the plea, observed that the issue of penalising political parties or candidates for not disclosing criminal antecedents has to be dealt with carefully as serious allegations with "political overtones" are often being made against candidates.

In September 2018, a five-judge Constitution bench had unanimously held that all candidates will have to declare their criminal antecedents to the Election Commission (EC) before contesting polls and called for a wider publicity, through print and electronic media about the antecedents of candidates.

The court had left it to Parliament to "cure the malignancy" of criminalisation of politics by making a law to ensure that persons facing serious criminal cases do not enter the political arena as the "polluted stream of politics" needs to be cleansed.

During the hearing on the contempt plea, the EC had told court that an increase in number of MPs having pending criminal cases was "disturbing" and as per statistics, 43% of the MPs in Parliament have criminal cases against them.

The EC had agreed with the suggestions of senior lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan, representing BJP leader and petitioner Ashiwini Upadhyay, including that all political parties should mandatorily upload on their website details of candidates with criminal antecedents along with the reasons as to why those without any criminal record could not be selected.

However, the EC had said it was not agreeable to the suggestion regarding penalising the political party or its candidates under Article 324 of the Constitution for their failure to disclose criminal antecedents, as it does not have this power.

The EC has also agreed with the suggestion that parties may be asked to furnish details on its website regarding criminal antecedents of candidates and give reasons as to why he or she has been given the ticket.

On March 29 last year, the apex court had sought response from the Centre and the EC on Upadhaya's plea seeking initiation of contempt proceedings for alleged violation of its judgment, directing all candidates to declare their criminal antecedents to the poll panel before contesting elections.

On October 10, 2018, the EC had issued notification regarding the amended Form-26 and directions to political parties and candidates for publication of criminal antecedents.

However, the plea filed by Upadhyay alleged that the EC neither amended the Election Symbol Order, 1968, nor the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), so the said notification has no legal sanction.

first published:February 12, 2020, 22:00 IST
last updated:February 12, 2020, 22:00 IST