The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a petition seeking a direction to the Election Commission to ensure that all political parties publish details regarding criminal cases of candidates along with the reason for their selection on the home page of its official website.
Mentioning the petition before a bench led by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, in his plea, pointed to the ongoing nomination process in the five states headed to Assembly polls, saying that the political parties are already violating two judgments.
On this, CJI Ramana asked, “Can we prevent persons who have cases against them from filing nomination?” The court then said, “You have mentioned, we will consider.”
Besides the website, the petition has also sought a direction to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to ensure that every politician publishes the details in electronic, print and social media, and to file a contempt case against the president of the party which violates such directions.
The petition, filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay in view of upcoming assembly elections, also sought a direction to the ECI to ensure that every political party explains why it preferred a person with criminal cases and did not select a candidate without criminal antecedents.
The petitioner also seeks direction to the Election Commission of India to de-register the political party, which violates the directions of the Supreme Court, the petition, filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, said.
It claimed that the petition was filed after Samajwadi Party, which is a registered and recognised political party, fielded alleged gangster Nahid Hasan from Kairana but neither published his criminal records in electronic, print or social media nor the reason of his selection within 48 hours in spirit of the direction passed earlier by the Supreme Court.
The injury caused to citizens is extremely large because even recognised political parties are giving ticket to dreaded criminals. Therefore, voters find it difficult to cast their vote freely and fairly, though it’s a fundamental right under Article 19, the petition claimed.
The consequences of permitting criminals to contest, become legislators are extremely serious for democracy and secularism, it added.
It added that during electoral process itself, not only do they pump in enormous amount of illegal money to interfere with outcome but also intimidate voters or rival candidates.
Thereafter, in our weak rule-of-law, once they gain entry to the governance as legislators, they interfere with, and influence, the functioning of government machinery in favour of themselves and their organisation by corrupting government officers and, where that does not work, by using their contacts with ministers to make threats of transfer and initiation of disciplinary proceedings. Some become ministers, which makes situation worse, it submitted.
It added that legislators with criminal antecedents attempt to subvert the administration of justice and attempt by hook or crook to prevent cases against themselves from being concluded and, where possible, to obtain acquittals.
Long delays in disposal of cases and low conviction rates are a testimony to their influence, it said.
As per Supreme Court’s judgments in 2018 and 2020, political parties were ordered to publish the entire criminal history of their candidates for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with their reasons for fielding suspected criminals over decent people.
The top court had also directed that the information be published in a local as well as a national newspaper as well as the parties’ social media handles. It should mandatorily be published either within 48 hours of the selection of candidates or less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
In August last year, directed that political parties must publish the criminal antecedents of candidates within 48 hours of their selection. A bench of Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai modified its February 13, 2020, judgment in this regard.
(With inputs from agencies)