13 Feb 2020
Explain why candidates with criminal-background were chosen: SC to parties
Political parties must disclose details of criminal cases against their candidates on their websites and explain the reasons behind choosing them, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.
Expressing concern over rising "criminalization in politics", the bench, headed by Justice RF Nariman said, that winnability can't be the only factor for parties to choose their candidates.
Parties which don't follow the order will be punished.
Court was hearing a contempt plea, reserved judgment last month
The top court gave its order on contempt pleas that questioned the involvement of criminals in politics.
It was claimed that the September 2018 order of SC, which said that candidates would have to disclose details of their criminal cases, wasn't being followed properly.
On January 31, the court reserved order in this case and noted that it was a serious matter.
Petitioner blamed EC for not doing much on ground
Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who went to the apex court, said that Election Commission issued directions to parties after SC's order.
But the top polling body didn't make necessary amendments, hence, the order didn't change anything on the ground.
On its part, EC didn't release a list of newspapers or TV channels where tainted leaders had to publish details of their criminal past.
Fielding such candidates has several consequences: Plea
The plea noted that there were grave consequences of fielding candidates with criminal backgrounds.
"During the electoral process itself, not only do they deploy enormous amounts of illegal money to interfere with the outcome, but they also intimidate voters and rival candidates," the plea said.
Upadhyay underlined that once these candidates enter the system they influence the functioning of government in their favor.
Leaders accused of rape and murder fought 2019 polls
The plea was timely, to say the least, considering that a large number of tainted politicians fought 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. According to an independent study by New-Delhi based Association of Democratic Reforms, almost one in every five candidates contesting Lok Sabha polls was accused of heinous crimes.
Nearly 19% of candidates were charged with murder, rape, and kidnapping, ADR revealed in May 2019.
Nearly 50% of Lok Sabha members have criminal background
Naturally, a large chunk of these tainted politicians made to the Lok Sabha. A report in India Today revealed that nearly 50% of members of the new Lok Sabha had criminal cases against them.
Of the 539 winners who were analyzed, 233 MPs declared they had criminal cases. The maximum number of cases, 204, was filed against Dean Kuriakose, a Congress MP from Idukki constituency.
No blanket ban, but parties have to reveal details: SC
In the previous hearing, the bench noted that this case has to be dealt with carefully as in some cases, serious allegations with "political undertones" are filed.
While the court didn't bar political parties from selecting such candidates, it made it clear that details should be revealed on almost every platform.
The details should be made public within 48 hours of selecting candidates.
Winnability can't be the only justification: SC
"Political parties will have to specify reasons for selecting candidates having pending criminal cases against them on their website. The reason to select candidates should be based on merit and not winnability. Winnability can't be the only justification," SC said.