By Elton Gomes
The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed political parties to post on their websites full details of criminal charges against candidates being fielded by them. The top court also said that the details should be published in print and electronic media.
The apex court made it mandatory for both the candidate and their parties to publish this information in newspapers and TV at least three times after nomination papers were filed. “The candidate… (and) the political party shall issue a declaration in widely-circulated newspapers in the locality about antecedents of the candidate and also give wide publicity in the electronic media,” the bench led by CJI Dipak Misra said, the Economic Times reported.
The apex court urged the parliament to urgently enact a legislation to prevent MPs and MLAs with a criminal record from becoming lawmakers. The court suggested the method of getting candidates and their parties to publicise pending criminal cases in election affidavits. The bench said that the “self publicity” would help in reducing the number of policy makers with a criminal record.
SC puts an onus on parliament to form laws
The apex court said that it could not add any further disqualification to the law and that it was now up to the parliament to pass a law to prevent persons with serious criminal cases from entering the legislature.
A five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice RF Nariman, AN Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra also said citizens have a right to be informed about their candidates’ social background.
Presently, those convicted of crimes such as murder, rape, and kidnapping are not allowed to contest elections.
The SC’s ruling came as a huge sigh of relief to more than 1,500 legislators across the country. As per a report released by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in April 2018, a total of 1,580 MPs and MLAs – roughly 33% of legislators in parliament and state assemblies have declared criminal cases against them.
Supreme Court asks for a list of corrupt MPs
According to DNA, earlier in this month, the Supreme Court had asked Chief Secretaries of the states and the registrar general of various high courts to provide a list of the number of MPs and MLAs who have criminal cases pending against them. The court also wanted to be informed whether these cases have been transferred to a special court.
The report further stated that the Centre had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court over having special courts for hearing pending criminal cases against tainted MPs and MLAs. The Centre informed the top court that figures from 11 states, including Delhi, have been received. A total of 1233 cases against MPs and MLAs have been transferred to 12 special fast-track courts while 136 cases have been disposed of – which meant that 1097 cases are still pending in courts across 11 states.
Criminal cases against MPs, MLAs
According to the previously mentioned report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), towards the end of the 2014 parliamentary election, every third MP in the 16th Lok Sabha had criminal charges against him.
The ADR had analysed affidavits of 541 of 543 Lok Sabha MPs, and it found that 186 or 34% of MPs had declared criminal cases against them. The corresponding figures were 30% in 2009 and 24% in 2004.
A report in March in the Indian Express stated that 3,816 criminal cases were registered against 1,765 MPs and MLAs across India. Out of the 3,816 cases, a total of 3,045 cases were pending, the Centre told the Supreme Court in an affidavit.
The Indian Express reported that Uttar Pradesh leads the tally with 565 cases against 248 MPs and MLAs. In second place was Kerala with 533 cases against 114 legislators. Tamil Nadu was third on the list with 402 cases against 178 MPs and MLAs, of which 324 are pending. It should be noted that no case has been lodged against any MP or MLA from Manipur and Mizoram.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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