The cleaning of political system from criminalisation and corruption is urgently required to save the roots of democracy. Parliament and judiciary need to take steps to curb this menace. A verdict was pronounced by the apex court in the case of Public Interest Foundation & Ors. v Union of India & Anr in which a batch of pleas raising a question whether lawmakers facing a criminal trial can be disqualified from contesting elections at the stage of framing charges against them.
The status prior filing of these petitions was according to the Representations of People’s Act by which lawmakers were debarred from contesting elections only if they are convicted in a criminal case. The petitioners pleaded the court either to bar the MPs and MLAs or candidates from contesting elections when charges are framed against them or to bar candidates with criminal antecedents to contest elections.
A constitutional bench of the Supreme Court consisting of 5 Judges, Justice Dipak Misra, Justice R.F. Nariman, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra delivered their judgement in the criminalisation of politics case on September 25,2018. The court refused disqualification of candidates on the basis of framing of charges in a criminal case against them. But, simultaneously court issued directions to political parties and candidates to adhere to while contesting elections-
- Every contesting candidate have to fill up the form provided by the Election Commission of India and disclose each and every detail.
- The candidate has to mandatorily disclose criminal antecedents in bold letters.
- The candidates are required to inform the political party, on whose symbol they are contesting, of all their criminal antecedents and cases pending against them.
- The political parties must publish the information regarding candidates and their criminal antecedents on their official website.
All political parties and their candidates with criminal antecedents must publish a declaration of the same in the newspapers widely circulated in the locality as well as publicise it on the internet. The publicity must be done at least thrice after filing the nomination papers.
The apex court noted “In a multi-party democracy, where members are elected on party lines and are subject to party discipline, we recommend to the Parliament to bring out a strong law whereby it is mandatory for the political parties to revoke membership of persons against whom charges are framed in heinous and grievous offences and not to set up such persons in elections, both for the Parliament and the State Assemblies.”
The court observed that the power vested to Election Commission under Article 324 of the constitution is general and Article 102(1)(e) specifies the ground for disqualifying a candidate or a chosen MP from the Parliament. The bench took note that law is not silent on this ground therefore, the judiciary had directed the legislative organ to enact laws in this regard so that the political parties and leaders themselves get indulged in the enactment of laws restricting the criminalisation and corruption in politics.
Therefore, the wait for clean politics has gone longer but according to criminal jurisprudence, a person is innocent unless proven guilty and mere framing of charges does not consider a candidate culprit of heinous offence. But, the country is in an urgent need of laws decriminalising in politics to safeguard the democratic structure which is in the hands of the Parliament after the verdict of the constitution bench of supreme court of India.
Student Reporter INBA