Can Netas With Criminal Charges Contest Polls? Verdict Shortly: 10 Points

The petitions have been opposed by the centre stating that it was not within the domain of the courts to add new disqualifications, which are not found in the statute

Can Netas With Criminal Charges Contest Polls? Verdict Shortly: 10 Points

A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra will deliver the verdict today.

New Delhi:  Whether lawmakers facing criminal charges be barred from contesting elections or should they be disqualified only after conviction, the Supreme Court will decide today. The top court is hearing a batch of petitions seeking disqualification of lawmakers even before their conviction in criminal cases to curb "criminalisation of politics" in the country. The court had earlier dubbed criminalisation of politics as "rot", and said it may consider directing the Election Commission to ask political parties to get their members disclose criminal cases against them so that electors know how many "alleged crooks" are there in such parties.
Here are 10 points in the case:
  1. The top court is dealing with the question if a legislator facing criminal trial can be disqualified at the stage of framing of charges in a case. Presently, lawmakers are barred at the time of conviction. Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra will be part of Chief Justice Misra's bench that is expected to deliver its judgment today.
  2. Referring to the concept of presumption of innocence until a person is proven guilty, Attorney General KK Venugopal, representing the Centre, had said that depriving a person from contesting elections on a party ticket would amount to denial of the right to vote, which also included the right to contest.
  3. In course of an argument, the Attorney General had said, "Mere allegation cannot prevent a member from contesting." He also said the court can't remain oblivious of the fact that political aspirants are often framed in cases ahead of polls and said that fast-track courts to try accused politicians were "the only solution".
  4. The petitioners pointed out that trials in cases involving politicians are deliberately delayed, and therefore, several lawbreakers enter the legislature and become lawmakers. Senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal, who is fighting the case against his father, suggested that either a law may be passed or the court can direct the poll panel to ask political parties not to give tickets to persons with criminal records.
  5. Mr Venugopal differs with his son's point of view and said that considering the concept of separation of power, the issue of disqualification of lawmakers should not be dealt with by the judiciary. "Can the judiciary decide the disqualification aspect?" senior Venugopal asked.
  6. The bench retorted "we have no doubt in our mind that we cannot make the law" and said, "Everybody understands that (doctrine of separation of powers among executive, legislature and judiciary) we cannot direct parliament to make a law. The question is what can we do to contain the rot. Something has to be done to keep criminals at bay and prevent them from contesting elections."
  7. Advocate Dinesh Dwivedi, appearing for NGO Public Interest Foundation, claimed there were 34 per cent lawmakers with criminal background in 2014 and alleged it was quite "impossible" that the parliament will make any law to restrict their run. Therefore, he asked for the top court's intervention.
  8. The court said that the Election Commission could be asked to direct political parties to ensure that persons, facing criminal charges, do not contest on their tickets using their poll symbols.
  9. Justice DY Chandrachud pointed out that the election panel, while granting recognition to parties, defines a minimum number of votes a party must get. "But on its own, the Election Commission can add a condition of denying symbol to criminals contesting on behalf of political parties," he said.
  10. Justice Indu Malhotra, however, has a different opinion on the issue. "So many cases of political vendetta will be must be only after conviction," she said.

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Petitions seek disqualification of accused lawmakers before conviction
At present, convicted lawmakers are barred from contesting in elections
Petitioners said trials involving politicians are deliberately delayed

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