New Delhi: Exercising its constitutional powers, the Supreme Court on Thursday made it mandatory for all political parties to give reasons for putting up candidates with criminal antecedents in general and assembly polls.
A bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman took note of the "alarming" rise in candidates with criminal charges being in the fray and said it was high time the top court uses its extraordinary powers in the interest of informed citizenry.
The bench found substance in a clutch of contempt petitions before it as they raised “grave” issues on criminal elements in the politics, requiring the court's attention.
The court directed that henceforth, all political parties must put on their websites all details of candidates with their criminal antecedents.
While cases where candidates have been charged by a court of law shall be specifically identified, the court said these details shall also include their academic qualifications and other background details.
Going a step further, the bench also made it obligatory for all the parties to also give reasons for selection of such candidates, along with an explanation as to why those without criminal antecedents couldn't be selected.
The apex court clarified that the parties cannot cite the winnability of candidates as the only justification. It added that these details must also be released on social media platforms that the political parties use.
All such information has to be made public within 48 hours of selection of these candidates or within a reasonable time before filing of their nomination. The court further directed that the parties must also submit details of these candidates with the Election Commission of India within 72 hours of their selection.
The directions shall apply to both the general as well as assembly elections, held the bench. It also underlined that any failure to comply with the court orders shall be liable for contempt of court and that the EC could approach the court in case of non-compliance.
The bench issued these directions while entertaining a bunch of contempt petitions, including the one filed by advocate and BJP member Ashwini Upadhyay. The petitions contended that despite a previous order by the top court, the political parties were not making public details of its candidates with criminal backgrounds.