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Published On: Thu, Feb 13th, 2020

Make criminal background of candidates public: Supreme Court

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7784d_supreme-court-1581324825NEW DELHI : The Apex Court has ordered political parties in the country to make information on criminal background of its candidates public. The apex court asked parties to publish the information on their websites as well as on print media. The court flagged an “alarming rise in the criminalisation of politics” in the last four national elections.
The Apex Court said it would be mandatory for parties to upload the details of their candidates’ criminal history on their websites, on social media and in newspapers within 48 hours of selection.
If political parties failed to give the details, or the Election Commission was unable to implement the directive, it would be considered contempt of court, the judges said.
“Political parties will have to specify reasons for selecting candidates having pending criminal cases against them on their website,” said the court. 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.
Exercising its constitutional powers, the Supreme Court 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.

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.

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. The directions shall apply to both the general as well as assembly elections, held the bench.
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.

In September 2018, a five-judge constitution bench had asked the central government to immediately enact laws to ban those involved in serious crimes from contesting elections and becoming party officials.

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