Recently, the Supreme Court of India in Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India 2018, has issued certain directions to deal with criminalization in politics in India.
It has been long observed that persons with extensive criminal backgrounds have been contesting national or state elections in India and in few cases, have become legislators as well. As per the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) India, some of the electoral candidates even had charges of serious criminal offences against them including murder, attempt to murder, rape, crimes against women, etc.
The Supreme Court herein held that in order to ensure that there is free and fair democracy, the electoral candidates should possess high integrity and morality. Further, that allowing electoral candidates with criminal antecedents to contest elections, would mean interference with the purity and integrity of the electoral process and violation of a voter’s freedom to choose freely a candidate, thereby adversely affecting the democracy of the country.
According to the Supreme Court, A political party which does not respect democratic principles in its internal working cannot be expected to respect principles in the governance of the country.
According to the Representation of People Act, 1951 as amended thereof, political members are disqualified only after conviction. But the time consuming trials often delay the convictions, if any and as a result of which, it becomes difficult to prevent the growing criminalization in politics.
Therefore, the Supreme Court herein, has issued the following directions in a bid to strengthen the democratic set-up in India:
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.
It shall state, in bold letters, with regard to the criminal cases pending against the candidate.
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.
The concerned political party shall be obligated to put up on its website the aforesaid information pertaining to candidates having criminal antecedents.
The candidate as well as the concerned political party 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.
The Supreme Court has, further, suggested that the Parliament of India should soon enact a legislation to ensure that persons facing serious criminal charges do not enter into the political stream.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer
PG College of Law, Osmania University
Intern at The Indian Lawyer