The Supreme Court today has asked all political parties in India to give reasons why they are fielding candidates with criminal charges against them, in general and assembly polls.
A bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman, exercising the constitutional powers of the Supreme Court, was addressing a number of petitions, contending that despite a previous order by the Supreme Court, political parties were failing to make public the details of its candidates with criminal backgrounds.
On this note, the Supreme Court delved into “grave issues of criminal elements in politics”.
The court directed that henceforth, all political parties must put on their websites all details of candidates with their criminal antecedents. These details should include the nature of the crime, whether charges have been framed, the status of the prosecution, and so on.
Further, the court said these details shall also include their academic qualifications and other background details.
The most pathbreaking aspect of this direction is that the Bench made it obligatory for all parties to give reasons for selection of such candidates, along with an explanation as to why those without criminal antecedents couldn't be selected.
The Court also said that parties should publish this criminal history in local and national newspapers, as well as on their social media handles. They specified that this should be one local paper, one national paper, and the official Facebook and Twitter handles.
The Court gave them a 48 hour countdown to do so, and demanded compliance reports to be filed with the Election Commission within 72 hours. In case any party fails to comply, the Court has threatened strict consequences of being in contempt of court.
The Court emphasised that the ability of a candidate to win should not be the sole grounds on fielding them for a particular office, and winnability cannot be the sole justification for having a candidate with a criminal history.
This came against the backdrop of a report from the Association of Democratic Reforms, which came out yesterday. The report noted that 61 per cent of Delhi’s new MLAs have criminal charges against them.
When compared to the 2015 Delhi assembly, there is a spike in the number of MLAs accused in criminal cases. As per the ADR report, in 2015, 24 MLAs – that is – only 34 per cent of the total MLAs had declared criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits. This number increased to 61 per cent in 2020.
Since the 2008 Delhi assembly polls, 2020 saw the highest share of candidates with criminal antecedents.