Can EC be directed to deny ticket to criminals, asks SC

The top court also asked if legislators could be asked to pass a law to check criminalisation of politics in view of “citizenery’s anguish”.

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre if it can direct the Election Commission (EC) to derecognise political parties that give tickets to candidates facing trial in criminal cases.

The top court also asked if legislators could be asked to pass a law to check criminalisation of politics in view of “citizenery’s anguish”.

“Can we direct the Election Commission that if charges are framed against a person, he or she should not be given ticket to contest polls? Can we make such kind of orders? Or should we suggest the legislators to make a law in this regard as political parties are giving tickets to criminals?” a five-judge Constitution bench presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked Attorney General K K Venugopal.

The court termed the situation as “wholly unsatisfactory” wherein a criminal case lodged against a politician, particularly an MP or an MLA, takes more than 10 to 15 years in trial.

Venugopal agreed that there has been indefinite delay in cases against MPs and MLAs, but said any change in law should be left for the legislators to decide. He also cited Section 7 of the Representation of the People which specifically laid down the conditions for disqualifications of MPs and MLAs and no other condition can be added to it.

The bench, also comprising justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, pointed out that there were qualifications and disqualifications for an MP and MLA in the Constitution. “Apart from disqualification, is a person charged with serious offence entitled to take oath as mentioned in Schedule III of the Constitution,” the bench asked.

Opening the arguments, senior advocate Dinesh Dwivedi, appearing for the NGO ‘PIL Foundation’, submitted the criminalisation of politics negated the principle of democracy and the basic structure of the Constitution. He said the right to vote, if not constitutional, is certainly a statutory right which gets affected by candidates facing criminal charges. How can such candidates take oath to uphold the Constitution, he asked.

“You are asking the court to exhort Parliament to pass a law. But there is a Lakshman Rekha,” the bench said.

Senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal, appearing for BJP leader Ashwini K Upadhyay, another petitioner, contended that if not Parliament, the Election Commission can be asked to prescribe the criteria to derecognise political parties giving tickets to those facing criminal charges.

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Can EC be directed to deny ticket to criminals, asks SC

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