Refusing to ban poll candidates with criminal antecedents, court calls for law

The Supreme Court on Tuesday left it to Parliament to “cure the malignancy” of criminalisation of politics by making a law to ensure that persons facing serious criminal cases do not enter the political arena as the “polluted stream of politics’’ needs to be cleansed.

Holding that criminalisation of politics is an “extremely disastrous and lamentable situation’’, the apex court said this “unsettlingly increasing trend’’ in the country has the propensity to “send shivers down the spine of a constitutional democracy”. It said the nation was ‘eagerly’ waiting for such a legislation as the society has legitimate expectation to be governed by proper constitutional governance and citizens in a democracy cannot be compelled to stand as “silent, deaf and mute spectators’’ to corruption by projecting themselves as helpless.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said malignancy of criminalisation of politics was “not incurable’’ but the issue was required to be dealt with soon before it becomes ‘fatal’ to the democracy.

Passing a slew of directions aimed at de-criminalisation of politics, giving citizens an “informed choice” and infusing a culture of purity in politics, the bench said that increasing trend of criminalisation of politics tends to disrupt constitutional ethos.

“A time has come that the Parliament must make law to ensure that persons facing serious criminal cases do not enter into the political stream,” said the bench, which also comprised Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, in the unanimous 100-page verdict. “We are sure, the law-making wing of the democracy of this country will take it upon itself to cure the malignancy,” it said.

It also recommended that Parliament bring out a “strong law’’ whereby it would be mandatory for the political parties to revoke membership of persons against whom charges were framed in heinous and grievous offences.

The bench directed that contesting candidates will have to fill up the form provided by the Election Commission and he or she will have to state “in bold letters’’ about the criminal cases pending against the candidate.

The bench also took note of the submissions of Attorney General KK Venugopal that the court should not cross the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ vis-a-vis the separation of powers and said it was well settled in law that the court cannot legislate.


■ The increasing trend of criminalisation of politics strikes at the "very root of our democracy"

■ Despite the gheavy mandateff prescribed by the Constitution, India has seen a esteady increasef in the level of criminalisation

■ If a candidate is contesting election on the ticket of a particular party, he/she is required to inform the party about criminal cases pending against them

1,580 MPs, MLAs facing criminal charges (As per an April report by Association for Democratic Reforms)

18% Poll candidates ( 2004 to 2014) who have criminal cases pending against them

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