Until recently, people used to come to know about criminal records of political candidates in elections only through media reports, activists and other independent sources. But now the Supreme Court of India has put politicians in an uncomfortable situation by making the candidates announce their own misconduct.

The apex court passed an order on September 25 this year making it mandatory for all candidates contesting elections to declare their criminal antecedents. They are to declare it in widely circulated newspapers and electronic media at least thrice on different dates after filing nomination papers, and two days before the polling date. That way, voters will know about the persons they will be voting for.

Political parties too have been directed to publish information about their candidates on their organisation websites as well as publicise it in both the print and electronic media at least three times. The Election Commission of India has directed all the candidates contesting in the upcoming assembly elections in five Indian states viz. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram, to follow the SC order and submit proof of their compliance by producing copies of the newspapers to the district electoral officers within 30 days after declaration of the election results.

We are yet to know about the criminal records of candidates fighting in the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Mizoram. But details of those contesting in Chhattisgarh, where the first phase of elections was held earlier this week, have been made public: 145 candidates with criminal cases (98 with serious criminal cases) are in the fray to become legislators in the state, according to the Chhattisgarh Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 1,256 out of 1,269 candidates.

The apex court’s attempt to curb criminalisation of politics should be appreciated although the matter of disqualification of candidates has been left with the parliament. Now, politicians have no other way out but to declare the criminal cases against them—incorrect disclosure of personal details can land them in trouble.

This is why many candidates have been spotted filing RTI to find information about their selves in the run-up to the polls this year. But knowing that the dark side of those standing for elections is not enough, the government of India should restrict rapists and murder convicts from becoming legislators. It can do so by enacting a law against them as has been suggested by the Supreme Court.

Such a move will not only benefit the citizens of the country but also uphold the integrity of its parliament. It is a shame that the world’s largest democracy has been allowing people who have been charged for scams and heinous crimes, to become lawmakers and rule the country.

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