Election candidates must advertise their crime record in media, says SC
Asks Parl To Bar Criminals From Contesting Polls
In an unprecedented order, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed that election candidates, after filing nomination, should repeatedly make declarations in
The court recommended that Parliament urgently enact a legislation to prevent tainted criminals from becoming lawmakers, and while it did not change the law, it hit on the innovative method of getting candidates and their parties to publicise pending criminal cases that often remain encased in election affidavits.
A constitution bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra said the “self publicity” would help curb criminalisation of politics.
The Supreme Court called the criminalisation of politics a termite eating into the edifice of constitutional governance. Summing up the court’s concerns, the CJI said, “The country feels agonised when money and muscle power become the supreme power.”
‘Negative ads must in media, party website’
The SC said, “Substantial efforts have to be undertaken to cleanse the polluted stream of politics by prohibiting people with criminal antecedents so that they do not even conceive of the idea of entering into politics”.
Writing a 100-page unanimous judgment for the bench, CJI Misra said, “In a multi-party democracy, where members are elected on party lines and subject to party discipline, we recommend to Parliament to bring out a strong law whereby it is mandatory for political parties to revoke membership of persons against whom charges are framed in heinous and grievous offences and not to set up such persons in elections, both for Parliament and state assemblies. “This would go a long way in achieving decriminalisation of politics and usher in an era of immaculate, spotless, unsullied and virtuous constitutional democracy.”
Turning the focus on disadvantaging tainted candidates in elections, he added, “Candidate as well as concerned party shall issue declaration in widely circulated newspapers in the locality about antecedents of the candidate and also give wide publicity in the electronic media. When we say wide publicity, we mean the same shall be done at least thrice after filing of nomination papers.”
The SC asked each candidate to inform the party about criminal cases and mandated the party to “put up on its website the aforesaid information”. Thus, there will be a three-way mandatory negative advertisement of a candidate’s criminal antecedents—in newspapers, TV channels and the party website.
The bench said it had issued these directions as it could not direct Election Commission to deny a candidate with criminal antecedents the benefit of his party’s election symbol. However, it said it was the SC alone that from time to time laid down laws to infuse “the culture of purity in politics”.
The AG opposed the suggestion that a candidate be disqualified from contesting if a trial court framed charges in a serious offence. CJI Misra said, “It is equally imperative that persons who enter public life and participate in lawmaking should be above any kind of serious criminal allegation.”
The bench said, “It is true that false cases are foisted on prospective candidates but the same can be addressed through appropriate legislation.”