The Supreme court in an attempt to decriminalize politics has ruled that political parties must publish the criminal antecedents of their candidates, if any, within 48 hours of their selection.
The apex court was listening to a contempt petition filed which alleged that the criminal antecedents of candidates were not published in the 2020 Bihar elections, held in November. This went against a supreme court order given in February 2020 which mentioned that the details of the candidates have to be published within 48 hours of selection or no less than two weeks before the date when the filing of nominations commences, whichever is earlier.
On Tuesday, the court changed its ruling to make it mandatory to publish the details within 48 hours of selecting the candidates. The bench, consisting of Justices RF Nariman, and BR Gavai has also given some additional directions which will be mentioned when the full copy of the judgment is uploaded.
The petition, filed by Advocate Brajesh Singh stated how it is mandatory for political parties to upload details of their candidates with pending criminal cases on the party’s website. They are also required to publish the details on the party’s social media handles as well as publish it in one local vernacular paper and one national newspaper. The party is also supposed to mention why candidates with criminal antecedents were chosen over other individuals who have no criminal records.
The matter focused on the powers of the Election commission to suspend or withdraw a recognized political party if it fails to conduct itself according to the model code of conduct and directions and instructions of the commission. The court had sent in a notice to Sunil Arora, Cheif electoral officer of Bihar, and the party heads of the recognized parties that contest the elections on this matter.
The petition also made mention of the top court’s direction for a political party to mention why they choose a candidate with criminal antecedents apart from their “winnability.” The party was directed to mention the selection with reference to the candidate’s qualification, achievement, and merit but some parties mentioned the candidate’s popularity as the reason for their choice. It also said parties had published the details in a newspaper that was not very popular and thus didn’t have much reach to the voters.
The plea specifically focused on candidates selected as a proxy for a person who has serious criminal charges against him. The plea thus sought contempt proceedings against the contenders who wilfully disobeyed the supreme court ruling of 2020.