In a tectonic move to cleanse candidate list, The Supreme Court Tuesday held that all candidates will have to declare their criminal antecedents to the Election Commission before contesting an election, saying criminalisation of politics of the largest democracy is "unsettling".
"Candidate must fill up forms before contesting elections giving clear details of all cases pending against them. Political parties will need to publish the details of the cases pending against the candidate at least three times in the paper and tv after filing of nomination. If a candidate is contesting elections on behalf of a political party he will have to disclose pending criminal cases to the party," said CJI Dipak Misra.
The Supreme Court, however, also said that it is no position to add disqualification criteria for candidates with criminal records and hence issued directions instead.
A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, said that citizens have a right to be informed about the antecedents of their candidates.
In the unanimous verdict, the bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, said that political parties are obligated to put all the information about their candidates on their websites.
It asked the legislature to consider framing a law to ensure decriminalisation of politics.
The CJI, while pronouncing the verdict, said, "the sooner we start treating criminalisation of politics, the better before it starts affecting the democracy: Dipak Misra, Chief Justice of India."
The five-judge bench was 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 to disclose criminal cases against them so that electors know how many "alleged crooks" are there in such parties.
At present, a charge sheet does not debar a person from contesting elections and cases usually take years to be decided. As a tentative measure, on 1 November 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the centre to set up special fast-track courts to try more than 1,581 cases pending against legislators.
A Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra will rule on a batch of petitions, including one by the non-governmental organization Public Interest Foundation seeking disqualification of politicians, including members of Parliament (MPs) and members of legislative assemblies (MLAs) from contesting elections, once charges are framed against them.