EC ‘Wholeheartedly’ Welcomes SC Order on Decriminalising Politics
Image used for representational purposes. 
Image used for representational purposes. (Photo Courtesy: Eshwar Gole/The Quint)

EC ‘Wholeheartedly’ Welcomes SC Order on Decriminalising Politics

A day after the Supreme Court ruled that political parties must publish details of candidates having a criminal record, the Election Commission on Friday, 14 February, said it “wholeheartedly” welcomed the order, adding it will go a long way in setting new moral yardsticks for improving electoral democracy, PTI reported.

Decriminalising politics, the SC also said the directions would enable voters to make a choice keeping "all factors" in mind when they cast their vote.

These are to include what crime the candidate has been accused of, and what stage the criminal case has reached – FIR, investigation, charge sheet, or trial.

The information has to be published within the next 48 hours, and the parties are to send a compliance report to the Election Commission within 72 hours. If they fail to do so, they will be in contempt of the Supreme Court’s order.
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The apex court bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman, Ravindra Bhat and V Ramasubramanian passed this order after taking note of the “alarming rise” in criminalisation of politics in the last four general elections, in the course of hearing a petition by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay, who had asked the court to ban the fielding of candidates with criminal cases against them.

While the court has not banned parties from putting up candidates for elections with criminal antecedents, it has issued directions to the parties to provide reasons for why such candidates are being fielded.

Parties have been instructed to put up the reasons on their website for why a candidate with a criminal record is contesting for them, rather than someone without such a record. The court has expressly said that the reason specified cannot only be that the person has a good chance of winning.

Also Read : PIL in SC for enforcement of voters' right to know criminal antecedents, assets of candidates

In addition to the details specified above, which have to be posted on the party’s website, the political parties have to also publish the details of candidates with a criminal background in one local newspaper, one national newspaper, and on the social media profiles of the party (including Twitter and Facebook).

Invoking its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution (power to do complete justice), the court has expressly said that if the parties fail to comply with these directions (as per the compliance report they file with the EC), this will invite contempt proceedings.

Also Read : 43% Newly-elected Lok Sabha MPs Have Criminal Record: ADR Report

Order Already 'Torn to Shreds' by PM: Congress

Congress on Thursday, attacked the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) over appointing a minister in Karnataka who is accused in mining cases, and alleged that the directive has already been torn to shreds by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"Today itself, Modi ji has torn to shreds the orders of giving reasons for giving tickets to leaders accused in cases," Surjewala tweeted with a news report on Anand Singh, accused in mining and forest crimes, being appointed the new minister for forest, environment and ecology in Karnataka.

At a press conference, Congress Spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said his party welcomes the apex court's decision as it is an important step towards decriminalising politics.

"The judgment of the Supreme Court is a vindication of Rahul Gandhi's fight against criminalisation of politics and his stand to make politics free from crime and criminals," he said.

“As this historic judgment has come, the BJP has appointed Anand Singh as minister in Karnataka, despite there being 15 cases of corruption against him,” Shergill said.

The ruling BJP, in response, said the Supreme Court direction that all political parties upload details of pending criminal cases against their candidates on their websites would strengthen electoral democracy.

It also said the directions would enable voters to make a choice keeping "all factors" in mind when they cast their vote.

“It strengthens the electoral democratic process in enabling the voters to make a choice keeping all factors in mind.”
Nalin Kohli, BJP Spokesperson

Nalin Kohli said the orders of the top court have to be complied with.

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