Let House decide candidates with criminal cases: SC

Let House decide candidates with criminal cases: SC

Court can issue direction under Article 142: Petitioner

Let House decide candidates with criminal cases: SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to issue any direction to debar candidates with criminal cases against them from contesting elections and reiterated that it was for Parliament to take a decision.

A three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice H L Dattu said, “we can’t be directing Parliament to take a call despite the fact that a report made by the Law Commission of India has been lying in cold-storage for the last 15 years in this regard.”

Senior advocate Dinesh Dwivedi, appearing for NGO PIL Foundation and others urged the court to issue direction to the Election Commission to ensure that returning officers rejected the nomination papers of those candidates against whom charges have been framed in criminal cases. He also sought a direction from the court to government to “seriously examine” the issue.

“We accept the anxiety of the petitioner. People facing serious charges should not be allowed to participate in electoral process. At the first blush, it appealed to us but the Constitution-makers said one is innocent unless proved guilty,” the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and Arun Mishra, said.

“We can’t put a stigma on a person. In ideal situation, it should be there. But should we do it,” the bench asked the counsel. Framing of charges is a crucial stage in a criminal court proceedings. A trial court frames charges against an accused, finding prima facie sufficient evidence. It marks beginning of trial with recording of statement of witnesses.
The court had on Tuesday said that allowing the plea of the petitioners could endanger the democratic polity of the country. As the court resumed its hearing on the batch of PILs, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Centre, submitted that the Constitution bench had already dealt with the issue in Manoj Narula verdict and refused to pass any order to debar candidates facing criminal charges.

The petitioner’s counsel, however, insisted that the SC can issue such a direction under Article 142 of the Constitution, if the field had remained unoccupied by the legislature. He said this was done in the case of Vishkaha guidelines to deal with sexual harassment at work places.

“Such directions could be issued in violation of human rights. This (issue) is a matter of great importance but there is a judgment of Constitution bench...you want us to direct Parliament to amend the Representation of People Act and insert a provision,” the bench told him, adding, “it is too much to allow such a prayer”.

The counsel then pleaded that such a direction would ensure good governance in the country but the court seemed disinclined as it observed it was for them (Parliament) to decide. The hearing is to resume on Thursday.

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