Supreme Court said candidates and political parties should widely publicise criminal charges (PTI)
- Parliament's duty to keep money and muscle power at bay, top court said
- Candidate's details must be published thrice after nomination, court said
- Petitioners said trials involving politicians were deliberately delayed
Time has come for parliament to keep criminals away and "cure the malignancy" by bringing law, the Supreme Court said today on petitions asking whether lawmakers facing charges can be stopped from contesting elections even before they are convicted. Leaving it to politicians to act against their own and set aside "winnability" in favour of "infusing purity in politics", the court said candidates and political parties should widely publicise criminal charges so voters can make an informed choice.
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"It is the duty of parliament to keep money and muscle power at bay. Parliament should cure the malignancy and it is not incurable before it becomes fatal to democracy," Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said.
"National interest demands parliament enacts such legislation and the country awaits such legislation," he said, reading out the unanimous judgement of a five-judge constitution bench.
The chief justice added that the court was "not in a position to add disqualification of candidates on filing of chargesheet in criminal cases."
Details of the candidate must be published thrice after they filed their nomination to contest an election, so voters make an informed choice, the court said.
"Such candidates should give in bold letters details of pending criminal cases to the Election Commission," said the court, which has dubbed criminalisation of politics as "rot".
The parliament, said Justice Misra, must make law to ensure candidates with criminal antecedents don't enter public life and take part in law making. It's the responsibility of all to enforce the law, he said.
The court said while the Election Commission cannot deny anyone a symbol, contesting candidates must declare pending criminal cases before their parties, which must be put up on websites and given wide publicity.
Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra are part of Chief Justice Misra's bench.
During arguments, Attorney General KK Venugopal, representing the centre, had said that denying a person the right to contest polls on a party ticket would amount to denying them the right to vote, which includes the right to contest. "Mere allegation cannot prevent a member from contesting." The court, he asserted, 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".
The petitioners pointed out that trials in cases involving politicians were deliberately delayed, and therefore, several lawbreakers entered the legislature and become lawmakers.