Political parties have to post information on criminal cases against poll candidates and the reasons for nominating them on their websites, the Supreme Court said today, flagging an “alarming increase in politics criminalization” during the last four national elections.
The Supreme Court said it would be mandatory for parties to submit, within 48 hours of nomination, details of the criminal history of their candidates on their blogs, social media and newspapers. “Political parties will need to state reasons on their website for selecting candidates with pending criminal proceedings against them,” the court said.
Parties must send the same information within 72 hours to the Election Commission, the court stated.
“The rationale for selecting candidates should be based on merit and not on winnability. Winnability can not be the sole justification,” directed the highest court.
If the specifics were not provided by the political parties, or the Election Commission was unable to enforce the order, it would be considered a contempt of court, the judges said.
The verdict falls on petitions of contempt filed by lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and others.
A five-judge constitution bench had directed the central government in September 2018 to immediately enact laws to ban those involved in serious crimes from contesting elections and becoming party officials.
BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay had filed a petition for contempt against the central government and the Election Commission, alleging no serious effort was made to stop the criminalization of politics despite the court order.
During the proceedings, the Election Commission had said that the court order to disclose the candidates ‘ criminal information did not have any effect and that political parties must be instructed not to offer tickets to people with criminal cases.
Previously, the court had even directed candidates to report their criminal information in the newspaper thrice after filing their nomination. The petitioner argued the electoral commission had not tried to implement this.