Updated on 14 February, 2020
Due to the rising number of legislators with a criminal history, the Supreme court has ordered Political parties to publish the criminal history of Candidates.
- The contempt petition was filed due to the general disregard shown by political parties to a 2018 Constitution Bench judgment (Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India) to publish the criminal details of their candidates in their respective websites and print as well as electronic media for public awareness.
Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India:
Directives by SC:
- Each contesting candidate shall fill-up the form as provided by the Election Commission and the form must contain all the particulars as required therein.
- It shall state, in bold letters, with regard to the criminal cases pending against the candidate.
- If a candidate is contesting an election on the ticket of a particular party, he/she is required to inform the party about the criminal cases pending against him/her.
- The concerned political party shall be obligated to put up on its website the aforesaid information pertaining to candidates having criminal antecedents.
- The candidate as well as the concerned political party shall issue a declaration in the widely circulated newspapers in the locality about the antecedents of the candidate and also give wide publicity in the electronic media. When we say wide publicity, we mean that the 98 same shall be done at least thrice after filing of the nomination papers.
What Supreme court order has stated?
- Applicable to Centre and State both: SC ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
- SC also stated to Publish the reasons along with names that goaded them to field suspected criminals over decent people.
- The information needs to be published in local as well as national newspapers and on the party's social media handles.
- It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
- SC also ordered political parties to submit compliance reports with the Election Commission of India within 72 hours or risk contempt of court action.
- The published information on the criminal antecedents of a candidate should be detailed and include the nature of their offenses, charges framed against him, the court concerned, case number, etc.
- A political party should give reasons to the voter that it was not the candidate’s “mere winnability at the polls” which guided its decision to give him a ticket to contest elections.
Need to publish a criminal record of Candidates:
- Increasing criminalization of politics in India: In 2004, 24% of the Members of Parliament had criminal cases pending against them; in 2009, that went up to 30%; in 2014 to 34%; and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them”.
- Criminals often facing heinous charges like rape and murder, encroaching into the country's political and electoral scenes.
- To ensure the accountability of political parties and enhance transparency.
- Right to know: Lack of information about such criminalization among the citizenry hampers citizen’s right to know and is a threat to the basic structure of the constitution.
Other major landmark judgments with respect to Electoral reforms:
- Jan Chaukidari v Union of India: in this case, SC upheld that those who are in lawful police or judicial custody, other than those held in preventive detention, will forfeit their right to stand for election.
- under section 62(5) of Representation of People Act, lays down that right to vote is not available to a prisoner, except a person under preventive detention. Thus, all prisoners who are not under preventive detention can neither vote nor can they contest elections.
- Lily Thomas v Union of India: SC ruled that any Member of Parliament (MP), Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) or Member of a Legislative Council (MLC) who is convicted of a crime and given a minimum of two-year imprisonment, loses membership of the House with immediate effect. This is in contrast to the earlier position, wherein convicted members held on to their seats until they exhausted all judicial remedies in lower, state and the supreme court of India.
- Further, Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, which allowed elected representatives three months to appeal their conviction was declared unconstitutional
Also read: Recommendation to Increase Lok Sabha seats