A bench headed by Justice F Narimanand Ravindra Bhat of the Supreme Court of India passed the order in contempt petitions filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, directed political parties to publish details of pending criminal cases against candidates on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and in one local vernacular and one national newspaper. The top court also directed political parties to submit a compliance report to the Election Commission within 72 hours of selecting candidates having pending criminal cases against them.
Contempt of court will have a six month jail term and a fine, but SC can to invoke extraordinary powers to do anything it deems fit to ensure justice. In September 2018, a five judge Constitution Bench had unanimously held that all candidates will have to declare criminal antecedents to the Election Commission before contesting polls and called for a wider publicity, through print and electronic media about such details. SC also set up special courts to hasten criminal cases against politicians. However, none of the steps have been a deterrent so far. The contempt petitions were filed to ensure compliance of the Supreme Court’s directions in Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India.
- The apex court said political parties will also have to upload reasons for selecting candidates with pending criminal cases on their website.
- The top court said political parties will have to submit a compliance report in this regard to the Election Commission within 72 hours of selecting candidates having pending criminal cases against them.
- Court directed that the EC shall bring it to the notice of the apex court in case of failure of political parties to comply with its directions.
- The court ruled that it shall be mandatory for political parties during central and state elections to put out detailed information about candidates with criminal cases pending against them, including the nature of the offences.
- Upadhyay had claimed that despite these directions, the Election Commission neither amended the Election Symbol Order 1968 nor the Model Code of Conduct.
- The petitioner pointed out that, “criminalization of politics in India has only grown. Data published by the ADR shows that 24% MPs have criminal cases pending against them (12% had serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, crime against women) in 2004, which increased to 30% (15% serious) in 2009 and 34% (21% serious) in 2014. Out of 7810 candidates analysed for the 2009 elections to the Lok Sabha, 1158 or 15% declared criminal cases of which 610 or 8% had serious cases. Out of 8163 candidates for general elections in 2014, 1398 or 17% declared criminal cases of which 889 (11%) had serious cases”.
The Court observed that, “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% 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”.The court added that, “The reasons as to selection shall be with reference to the qualifications, achievements, and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere ‘win ability’ at the polls”.
Edited by J. Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
- Case of Rambabu Singh Thakur vs. Sunil Arora, contempt petition (C) no. 2192 OF 2018 in W.P. (C) No. 536 OF 2011, decided by the Supreme Court of India on February 13, 2020.