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Parties get 48 hours to publish candidates’ criminal records

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File  

The Supreme Court on Tuesday warned Parliament that the nation is losing patience with the advent of criminals in politics even as it imposed fines on major political parties, including the BJP and Congress, for covering up from voters the criminal past of the candidates they had fielded in the Bihar Assembly polls last year.

The court had directed political parties to publish the criminal history, if any, of their election candidates on the homepage of their party websites under the caption ‘candidates with criminal antecedents’ within 48 hours of their selection.

Editorial | Crime and politics

“The nation continues to wait, and is losing patience. Cleansing the polluted stream of politics is obviously not one of the immediate pressing concerns of the legislative branch of government,” a Bench of Justices Rohinton F. Nariman and B.R. Gavai, told the lawmakers.

Justice Nariman, who authored the 71-page judgment based on a plea by advocate Brajesh Singh, said the Supreme Court’s repeated appeals to legislators to amend the law to weed out the criminals amidst them had fallen on deaf ears.

“Political parties refuse to wake up from deep slumber,” Justice Nariman observed.

Parties get 48 hours to publish candidates’ criminal records
 

The court said it did not take political parties much time to flout its February 2020 judgment, which had directed them to prominently publish the criminal antecedents of their candidates in newspapers and on social media accounts, including Twitter and Facebook.

Eight months from the February judgment, in the run-up to the Bihar Assembly elections in October-November last year, these parties had already subverted the verdict by either publishing inadequate information about their candidates’ criminal antecedents or cleverly printing them in obscure newspapers.

The court imposed ₹1 lakh each on the BJP, Congress, JD(U), RJD, Lok Janshakti Party and the Communist Party of India for subverting the February 2020 judgment. It slapped ₹5 lakh each on the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Nationalist Congress Party for completely ignoring the February judgment.

In a series of directions to make the right of information of a voter “more effective and meaningful”, the court further ordered the Election Commission of India to launch a dedicated mobile app for voters to get details of the criminal history of the candidates at the touch of a button. The Commission should also form a separate cell to monitor political parties on their compliance with the court’s judgment.

The court said any violation on the part of a political party, if brought to its attention by the Election Commission, would be viewed “very seriously” .

In fact, Justice Nariman reasoned that publishing the details of their candidates may even benefit the parties in the Indian scenario where political vendettas were a reality.

“Take a situation wherein otherwise a highly meritorious candidate has been falsely implicated in some criminal matters by his rivals. As against this, a person who has a clean record, but totally unknown to the electorate in that area, applies for a ticket of a political party. In such a situation, a political party can always give a reason that a candidate with criminal antecedents is found to be more suitable than a person who does not have criminal antecedents,” Justice Nariman explained.

The court finally said its hands were tied from taking any further action. “We cannot transgress into the area reserved for the legislative arm of the State. We can only appeal to the conscience of the lawmakers and hope that they will wake up soon and carry out a major surgery for weeding out the malignancy of criminalisation in politics,” Justice Nariman wrote.


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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 4:00:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/parties-must-publish-criminal-antecedents-of-candidates-within-48-hours-of-selection-supreme-court/article35829985.ece

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