SC asks Parliament to make law to bar criminals from politics
25 September 2018
The Supreme Court has refused to pass any order to bar criminals from entering politics, and instead asked Parliament to make suitable legislation to check criminalisation of politics.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however, directed candidates choosing to take part in elections to declare their criminal antecedents to the poll panel before the conduct of the elections.
Justifying the order, the bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, and also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, Rohinton Nariman, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, noted that informed choice is the cornerstone of democracy even as it noted that growing criminalisation of politics in India was "unsettling".
The court, however, stressed that a law was required to ensure persons with serious criminal cases pending against them are prevented from entering the legislature and taking part in decision-making.
The top court noted that the roots of the Indian democracy were being weakened by corruption and criminalisation of politics. In the light of these remarks, a question has arisen in the minds of those who believe in democracy and want to keep it corruption free.
The court asked political parties to publish records of criminal pasts of the candidates on their websites and publicise it “to ensure voters make an informed choice,” calling it the “cornerstone of democracy.”
Addressing attorney general KK Venugopal’s submissions during the hearings that a person is presumed innocent until he is proven guilty, CJI Misra said, “It is one thing to take cover under the presumption of innocence, but it is another to allow politics to be smeared by criminal stain.”
The court further stated that the parliament should also consider the issue of false cases being filed against politicians.
The court’s unanimous verdict was pronounced on a batch of petitions seeking to bar politicians facing charges of heinous crimes like murder, rape and kidnapping from contesting elections. Under the Representation of the People Act, while convicted politicians are disqualified, the same does not apply to accused ones.
The petitions were filed by various parties, including NGO Public Interest Foundation and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
But as the NGO stated in its plea, with 34 per cent of lawmakers coming with a criminal background (as in 2014), it was unlikely that Parliament would introduce any law to stop the “criminalisation of politics”.