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Disclosure of criminal antecedents by poll candidates: SC to pass order on contempt plea

Press Trust of India  |  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 R F 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 before contesting polls and called for a wider publicity, through print and electronic media about antecedents of candidates.

It 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 the court that increase in number of MPs having pending criminal cases was "disturbing" and as per the statistics, there were 43 per cent 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.

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 Election Commission has also agreed with the suggestion that political 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.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, February 12 2020. 21:20 IST
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