It seems a hard time for all the political leaders with criminal record(s), as the Supreme Court (SC) of India has ordered all the political parties of the country to disclose all criminal data of the political leaders, who the respective wish to provide party candidature in any of the elections of state assembly or the parliamentary election.
The SC, last Thursday (13 Feb, 2020), not only ordered the disclosure of the criminal records of the candidate(s), but also directed all political parties to disclose and publish entire criminal records and history of the candidates of their party for State Assembly (Bidhan Sabha) and Parliamentary (Lok Sabha) election.
The SC order more to it, as it has also been ordered to all political parties to provide valid reason(s) as why they have chosen the candidate who possesses criminal record(s) and not decent candidate with zero criminal record.
Further, all political parties have been directed to publish the criminal record(s) of their candidate(s) in at least 3 local and national newspapers, television channels and as well as in the parties’ social media handles. As per the order, the criminal history should be published within next 48 hours of the declaration of the candidature of the particular person as party candidate or less than two weeks before the first date of filing the nominations of the election whichever is earlier, and this is mandatory. The political parties are to publish information on the criminal history of the candidate(s) and that should be in detail and include the nature of the crime charges framed against them, case number etc.
The order was delivered by a bench led by Justice, Rohinton F. Nariman. As a part of the judgement, the bench said that all details of compliance have to be reported to the Election Commission of India (ECI) within 72 hours, beyond which, failure to do so will be considered contempt of court. In such case, the court may hold the president of the party liable. If such directives are not followed, there is even a change of the party being de-registered.
The SC order comes in response to a contempt petition filed by lawyer, Ashwini Upadhyay and other, after no significant action was taken in response to an older judgement.
It may be noted here that the SC judgement will be applicable to both, central and state level parties. The order came out over the concern about the alarming increase in the number of persons with criminal backgrounds being elected as member of state assemblies and parliament.
While the order may have been receiving mixed responses, in Sikkim, the regional parties have welcomed it.
Speaking to Sikkim Chronicle, the state unit president of the Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee (SPCC), Bharat Basnett, said, “this is a good move and the order of the Supreme Court is a good decision and the party welcomes it as this will definitely help people know their leader in close and help make their decisions, and likewise, it will also help the political parties to be careful while choosing their candidates”.
Basnett further added that this should be implemented well in the state.
“Criminalization of politics has not only affected the politics, but it has affected the development of a state and the country at large and ultimately, the criminalization of politics is a danger to humanity”, he asserted and said that all the political parties of the state should welcome it.
Likewise, the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) party has also appreciated and welcomed the order. The spokesperson of the SDF, Krishna Lepcha said that the order of the SC is a much needed decision and it will help in having clean and pure politics.
“Politics should be in favour and interest of the people at large and not about fulfilling the individual interest of a leader”, he added.
He further said that the present political leader should set a good example for upcoming generations who will join politics later.
“I individually welcome the order of the Supreme Court, and in fact, it is the requirement as per the present political situation in the country; but it is up to the concerned authority and institution for its implementation”, told Passang Sherpa, a political activist.
He also mentioned, “there were many such rules and acts that bar candidates with criminal records to contest the election and disqualify them, but we have seen many instances of incidents where the EC using its authority and power, have permitted such leaders to contest the election. So, now it is up to the concerned authorities and institutions to implement and follow the Supreme Court directive, so as to make Indian politics clean and crime free”.