The Hon’ble Supreme court vide Judgment dated February 13, 2020 in the case of Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora & Ors. Contempt Petition (C) No. 2192 of 2018 in Writ Petition (C) No. 536 of 2011 has made it mandatory forall the political parties to publish the criminal antecedents of the candidates in the Lok Sabha and Assembly Polls. Taking note of the increasing criminalisation of politics in India a bench comprising of Justices R.F. Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat passed orders in the contempt petitions that were filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and Rambabu Singh Thakur complaining that the directions that were given by a Five Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in 2018 regarding decriminalization of politics in India were not implemented in the subsequent Assembly Elections and General Elections as the Election Commission of India failed to amend the Election Symbols Order and Model Code of Conduct to incorporate the orders passed by the Constitution Bench in 2018.
On September 25, 2018 a Five-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court had issued the following directions with respect to decriminalization of politics in India:
“116. Keeping the aforesaid in view, we think it is appropriate to issue the following directions which are in accord with the decisions of this Court:
116.1. Each contesting candidate shall fill up the form as provided by the Election Commission and the form must contain all the particulars as required therein.
116.2. It shall state, in bold letters, with regard to the criminal cases pending against the candidate.
116.3. If a candidate is contesting an election on the ticket of a particular party, he/she is required to inform the party about the criminal cases pending against him/her.
116.4. The political party concerned shall be obligated to put up on its website the aforesaid information pertaining to candidates having criminal antecedents.
116.5. The candidate as well as the political party concerned shall issue a declaration in the widely circulated newspapers in the locality about the antecedents of the candidate and also give wide publicity in the electronic media. When we say wide publicity, we mean that the same shall be done at least thrice after filing of the nomination papers.”
However, despite these directions there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics as in 2019, as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them. Also, the political parties could not give an explanation as to why candidates with criminal cases pending against them were being selected as candidates in the first place. Taking into account all these facts, the Apex Court in exercise of the constitutional powers conferred on it under Articles 129 and 142 of the Constitution of India has issued the following directions:
- It shall be mandatory for political parties [at the Central and State election level] to upload on their website detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases (including the nature of the offences, and relevant particulars such as whether charges have been framed, the concerned Court, the case number etc.) who have been selected as candidates, along with the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.
- The reasons as to selection shall be with reference to the qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere “winnability” at the polls.
- This information shall also be published in:
- One local vernacular newspaper and one national newspaper;
- On the official social media platforms of the political party, including Facebook & Twitter.
- These details shall be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate or not less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
- The political party concerned shall then submit a report of compliance with these directions with the Election Commission within 72 hours of the selection of the said candidate.
- If the political party fails to submit such compliance report with the Election Commission, the Election Commission shall bring such non-compliance by the political party concerned to the notice of the Supreme Court as being in contempt of this Court’s orders/directions.
5th Year, GGSIP University, Delhi
Intern, The Indian Lawyer