The Supreme Court on February 13th, 2020 made it mandatory for the political parties to publish details of candidates with criminal records and justify their selection to contest State Assembly and Parliament elections.
The court asked the parties to disclose why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.
The apex court’s judgement is aimed at cleaning up of politics but it is likely to cause consternation among the political parties.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat noted, “The political parties offer no explanation as to why candidates with pending criminal cases are selected as candidates in the first place.”
The common refrain among the parties is that the particular candidate even with the criminal records is selected due to winnability factor.
So, the political parties must now disclose the reasons for the selection of candidates along with the qualifications, achievements and merit, and not mere “winnability” at the polls.
It directed all political parties to publish within 48 hours the criminal records of the candidates on their website, in one vernacular and national dailies and, besides on its official social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
The court also ordered that the political parties would submit a report on compliance of its direction within 72 hours of the selection of tainted candidates, failing which it would invite contempt of this court.
The directions under Articles 129 and 142 of the Constitution were issued by the apex court on contempt petitions filed by Rambabu Singh Thakur and others. The petitioners claimed the directions of a Constitution bench made in ‘Public Interest Foundation and Others vs Union of India and Another’ (2019) on publicising the criminal records of the candidates in elections were disregarded by the political parties.
In its order, the court said, “It appears that over the last four general elections, there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics.”
In 2004, 24 per cent of the MPs were tainted with criminal cases. In 2009, that figure went up to 30 per cent, in 2014 to 34 per cent; and in 2019 as many as 43 per cent of MPs had criminal cases pending against them.