Election Commission joins plea to disclose criminal cases against candidates

The joint proposal also asks political parties and candidates themselves to also publish the declaration about their candidates on their Twitter handles and Facebook pages, 48 hours prior to the scrutiny of nominations.

February 01, 2020 04:20 am | Updated 04:20 am IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

The Election Commission of India on Friday filed a proposal jointly with petitioner-advocate A.K. Upadhyay for making election candidates as well as political parties fielding them, equally liable for disclosing their criminal antecedents.

A Bench led by Justice Rohinton Nariman reserved orders on a contempt petition filed by Mr. Upadhyay against authorities and parties for not complying fully with a Constitution Bench judgment in 2018, which had directed political parties to publish online the pending criminal cases of their election candidates.

The joint proposal consists of making political parties liable to publish the criminal antecedents of their candidates — along with detailed reasons why they could not field better candidates — on social media, in newspapers and electronic media.

The parties have to also publish the declaration about their candidates on their Twitter handles and Facebook pages. This has to be done 48 hours prior to the scrutiny of the nominations. A similar responsibility rests on the candidates too.

The proposal also contains the draft of the Criminal Antecedents of Candidates (Reporting and Publication) Order of 2020 to formalise the liabilities on the parties and the candidates.

Justice Nariman, however, orally disagreed with a suggestion to make the law punitive in nature. The Bench said a penal factor may be misused by political parties against their rivals to frame serious charges like sedition, etc.

Appearing before the Bench, senior advocate Vikas Singh, for the Commission, said 46% of Members of Parliament have criminal records. The Supreme Court’s long string of judgments against criminalisation of politics has hardly scratched the surface of the deep rot.

The Supreme Court had in 2018 suggested that Parliament should frame a law that makes it obligatory for political parties to remove leaders charged with “heinous and grievous” crimes like rape, murder and kidnapping, only to a name a few, and refuse election ticket to offenders in both parliamentary and Assembly polls.

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