The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed that political parties must publish the criminal antecedents, if any, of their candidates within 48 hours of their selection, modifying the direction in its February 2020 judgment in the same.
Looking to decriminalise politics, the Supreme Court in paragraph 4.4 of the February 2020 judgment had ordered that the details shall be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate or not less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
On Tuesday, the bench said that it has changed paragraph 4.4 of the said judgment and made it as publication within 48 hours. The bench has also passed certain additional directions, which will be known when the full copy of the judgment is uploaded.
The bench was delivering its verdict in the in contempt petitions filed alleging failure to publish criminal antecedents of candidates in the Bihar Assembly elections held in November 2020.
Petitions have asked for contempt against political parties for not obeying the February 2020 orders of the Supreme Court.
That verdict had said all political parties had to explain why they chose candidates with criminal cases and disclose details of the cases on their party website along with the reasons for selecting such candidates. The Election Commission had directed political parties to publish this information on candidates in newspapers.
Criminal cases pending against sitting and former MPs and MLAs have registered a 17% jump in less than two years.
The Supreme Court last month had said that no political party was interested in framing a law to decriminalise politics by banning candidates against whom grave charges have been framed by the courts, adding that the legislative wing of the government has not been keen on taking a step in this direction.
Under the Representation of People Act, an MP or an MLA convicted by court and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of more than two years is disqualified from contesting elections for the imprisoned period and a further period of years from his release. There is no provision for disqualifying any candidate prior to conviction. The Act disqualifies a candidate for the use of corrupt practice in the elections, which needs to be proven by another candidate in opposition before a court.