24 January 2020
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said that some concrete steps should be taken to keep criminal elements out of politics.
A bench, headed by Justice R.F. Nariman and comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, expressed concern on the issue of criminalisation of politics, and suggested measures to decriminalise it.
In September 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench had unanimously held that all candidates have to declare the criminal cases pending against them to the Election Commission before contesting election.
The top court said the political party would be obligated to put up this information on its website. And, the candidate as well as the political party concerned shall issue a declaration and ensure its wider publicity through various mediums of the media.
The Election Commission told the apex court that this direction, asking candidates in the electoral fray to declare criminal antecedents through media, has not helped enough and suggested that political parties should be asked not to give tickets to candidates having criminal antecedents.
"Just disclosure of criminal antecedents in the affidavit hasn't helped much," counsel for the poll panel told the court.
At this, the top court asked the petitioner, BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, and the poll panel to sit together and come up with concrete suggestions which would finally begin the process of decriminalising the politics.
The court also asked the poll body to come up with a framework within one week, which can contribute towards the larger issue of containing the entry of candidates having criminal background into politics, which will eventually serve the national interest.
The top court had said measures to weed out criminal elements from politics if implemented in true spirit and right earnestness will strengthen the democratic set-up.
Upadhyay, in his petition, said on October 10, 2018, that the Election Commission issued direction to political parties and candidates for publication of criminal antecedents without amending the Election Symbol Order and Model Code of Conduct, and as a result, the direction has no legal sanction.
"It (poll body) had not published list of leading newspapers and news channels, so candidates publish criminal antecedents in unpopular news platforms," said his plea.