'Not in position to add disqualification of candidates with pending criminal cases': Supreme Court verdict on tainted MPs, MLAs

The Supreme Court on Tuesday passed a verdict on the disqualification of MPs and MLAs against whom a chargesheet has been filed, and said that the apex court is "not in a position" to order the disqualification of 'tainted' politicians. However, the bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra issued a list of directions to curb the problem.

File photo of the Supreme Court of India. Reuters

File photo of the Supreme Court of India. Reuters

Asserting that corruption has become a "national economic terror", the Supreme Court held that each candidate shall declare his/her criminal antecedents to the election commission before contesting an election. A 5-judge Constitution bench said that citizens have a right to be informed about the antecedents of their candidates. The verdict was unanimously passed by a bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra.

The Supreme Court also held that all candidates will have to declare their criminal antecedents to the Election Commission before contesting an election, saying criminalisation of politics of the largest democracy is "unsettling".

The bench said that political parties are obligated to put all the information about their candidates on their websites. It asked the legislature to consider framing a law to ensure decriminalisation of politics. The bench said that informed choice is the cornerstone of democracy.

The apex court put the onus on the Parliament, to decide on action against politicians with criminal cases pending against them. The bench said "decriminalisation" of politics "is important" but that the Court cannot "legislate on behalf of the Parliament". The bench also said that a chargesheet against a politician is not enough grounds for disqualification.

The apex court favoured wider publicity, through print and electronic media about the antecedents of candidates affiliated to political parties.

Issuing the guidelines, the Supreme Court noted that "citizens have the right to be informed" about the "antecedents" of their candidates. The directives include that candidates must fill out Election Commission forms with details of their criminal past and pending cases in bold letters; that antecedents be declared on the website of the party, and that Parliament must make laws to ensure candidates with criminal antecedents don't enter public life and take part in lawmaking.

The verdict was pronounced on a batch of pleas raising a question whether lawmakers facing criminal trial can be disqualified from contesting elections at the stage of framing of charges against them.

The status before the filing of these petitions was that lawmakers were barred under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act from contesting elections only after their conviction in a criminal case. The verdict was reserved on 28 August.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Sep 25, 2018 11:33 AM

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