SC directs Parliament to frame law to ensure decriminalisation of politics

Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India, File Photo

New Delhi, Sep 25 : Noting that the criminalisation of politics strikes at the foundation of a democratic government,the Supreme Court has directed the Parliament to frame law to ensure candidates with criminal antecedents don’t enter public life and take part in law making.

We are not in a position to add disqualification of candidates on filing of chargesheet in criminal cases,” Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said, reading out the order.

The five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that candidates cannot be disqualified merely because charges have been framed against them in a criminal case. The bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra issued a slew of directions for curbing criminalisation of Politics :

– Candidates contesting must declare their criminal antecedents

– Political parties must put up criminal antecedents of their candidates on their websites

– Parliament must make law to ensure candidates with criminal antecedents don’t enter public life and take part in law making

–The Election Commission to require candidates to clearly specify details of the pending cases at the time of filing their nominations….

– Forms of Election Commission which are to be filled up candidates should contain detail about their criminal past and pending cases in bold letters

– Political parties should issue declaration and give wide publicity in electronic media about the antecedents of the candidates

Lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay said, “We had demanded from SC to ward off candidates from contesting polls against whom charges have been framed in heinous crimes. Validating our demand, SC has directed Parliament to pass a law that can stop criminalization of politics.”

The Apex court delivered  its verdict on a batch of petitions filed in 2011 by NGO Public Interest Foundation and Delhi BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay among others which demanded debarring politicians facing serious criminal charges in order to de-criminalise Indian politics. It had reserved the verdict on the issue on August 28.

The Bench includes Justice RF Nariman, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra.

Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General K K Venugopal had told the court during the hearing that the judiciary cannot get into law-making, which is reserved for the legislature.He also opposed suggestions that a person who is chargesheeted could be barred from contesting polls as, under the Indian law, there is presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.

Venugopal had told the Bench that Article 102 provided for Parliament to make law on the issue and hence the top court should leave it to the wisdom of the parliamentarians. He had reminded the Bench of the concept of separation of powers.

”Everybody understands that. We cannot direct Parliament to make a law. The question is what we can do to stem the rot,” the Bench had commented.

Advocate Dinesh Dwivedi, appearing for NGO has claimed there were 34 per cent lawmakers with criminal background in 2014 and alleged it was quite “impossible” that the parliament will make any law to restrict their run.

The court may direct Election Commission to ask every member of a political party to declare if they have any case against them.

“That will not disqualify them from being a member of the party but will help people know how many members of the party have criminal cases against them. When these people want to contest, they will not get symbols,” the court had said.

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