SC Refuses to Disqualify Tainted Netas From Contesting Polls
Supreme Court’s five-judge Constitution Bench delivered its verdict on Tuesday, 25 September.
Supreme Court’s five-judge Constitution Bench delivered its verdict on Tuesday, 25 September.(Photo Courtesy: Eshwar Gole/The Quint)

SC Refuses to Disqualify Tainted Netas From Contesting Polls

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 25 September, held that candidates cannot be disqualified from contesting elections merely because charges have been framed against them in a criminal case.

The bench added that political parties would have to publicise the list of cases pending against their candidates, reported Live Law.

Filing of a chargesheet cannot be a ground for disqualification of legislators, the bench maintained, according to Live Law. The bench added that the court cannot add to the grounds of disqualifications and therefore cannot declare that chargesheeted legislators as disqualified and left it to the Parliament to pass a law that can can stop criminalisation of politics.

The Constitution Bench comprised Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra. A three-judge bench of Supreme Court had first referred the matter on 8 March, 2016.

Also Read : Only 6% Criminal Cases Against MPs and MLAs End in Conviction

SC Calls for Parliament Action

The court observed that corruption and criminalisation of politics is hitting at the roots of democracy, and called for the Parliament to take “urgent steps to curb the menace.”

“Parliament must make law to prevent persons with serious criminal cases pending against them from entering legislature and be part of law making,” the apex court observed, reported The Times of India.

The SC, however, asked candidates who are contesting polls to put it in “bold letter her/his criminal antecedents” in the required affidavit. The bench also asked political parties to put on their website the criminal record of each of their candidates, in order to enable the voter make an “informed choice.”

NGO Public Interest Foundation had filed a petition in 2011, seeking guidelines or framework for dealing with criminals in politics, reported Live Law. The NGO had asked that those charged with serious offences should not be allowed to stand for election.

According to Live Law, the matter had first gone to a three-judge bench, and later referred to the Constitution Bench, which began its hearing on this issue on 9 August.

On 28 August, reported Live Law, Justice Nariman had noted that "the moment we declare that a person charged with a heinous offence cannot stand in the election on that symbol, it is tantamount to creating a new offence from the backdoor that once the candidate is charged, he is disqualified…”

Timeline of the Case

8 March 2016: A three-judge bench of SC referred the matter to a five-judge Constitution Bench comprising CJI Dipak Misra and Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

14 December 2017: The SC directed the Centre to set up 12 special courts to exclusively deal with cases involving politicians.

11 March 2018: The Centre told the SC that states and Union Territories have been asked to set up special fast-track courts to try 3,816 criminal cases pending against 1,765 lawmakers.

21 March: The Centre told the SC that appointing office-bearers is a matter of political parties’ autonomy.

3 August: Congress leader Jitendra Patwari moved the SC opposing the mandatory transfer of all types of pending criminal cases against lawmakers to fast track courts set up exclusively to deal with cases involving MPs and MLAs.

9 August: AG KK Venugopal said the issue squarely fell under the domain of Parliament.

21 August: Supreme Court dubbed criminalisation of politics as "rot".

28 August: SC reserved the verdict.

25 September: Terming "unsettling" the criminalisation of politics in the world's largest democracy, the SC asked Parliament to formulate a law to curb the menace.

(With inputs from PTI, LiveLaw and The Times of India)

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