Political parties in India have to upload on their websites the details of pending criminal cases against candidates contesting polls in the next 48 hours, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.
Parties will have to specify their reasons and publish them on their websites. They will also have to publish details of the pending criminal cases against such candidates on social media platforms and newspapers:
If parties fail to comply with its directions on candidates with pending criminal cases, EC shall bring it to notice of apex court, the top court said.
The bench of justices RF Nariman and Ravindra Bhat said there had been an alarming increase in criminalisation of politics in the last four general elections.
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 before contesting polls and called for a wider publicity, through print and electronic media about antecedents of candidates.
It had left it to the 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, PTI reported.
During the hearing on the contempt plea, the EC had told the court that increase in number of MPs having pending criminal cases was “disturbing” and as per the statistics, there were 43% MPs in Parliament who have criminal cases against them.
The poll panel 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.
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.
(With PTI inputs)