Surgery needed to weed out criminals from politics: SC

SC fines political parties for failing to disclose criminal records of candidates in Bihar polls

The court imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on JD-U, RJD, LJP, INC, BJP, and CPI and a higher amount of Rs five lakh each on CPI(M) and NCP

Representative Image. Credit: iStock Photo

In a development to check the criminalisation of politics, the Supreme Court on Tuesday fined all major political parties after holding them guilty of contempt of its 2020 order on disclosing criminal antecedents of candidates and the reasons for selecting them during the Bihar Assembly polls.

A bench of Justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai stressed on the need for amendments in law to check criminals entering into polity, saying "a major surgery" was required for "weeding out the malignancy of criminalisation in politics". 

Dealing with a petition, the court held JD-U, RJD, Lok Janshakti Party, INC, BJP, CPI(M), CPI, NCP and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party guilty of contempt of its order passed on February 13, 2020.

Also Read | No criminal cases against politicians to be withdrawn without HC's approval: SC

The court imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on JD-U, RJD, LJP, INC, BJP, and CPI and a higher amount of Rs five lakh each on CPI(M) and NCP for not complying with the directions at all.

"Taking into consideration that these were the first elections which were conducted after issuance of our directions, we are inclined to take a lenient view in the matter. However, we warn them that they should be cautious in future and ensure that the directions issued by this Court as well as the ECI are followed in letter and spirit," the bench said.

In a 71-page judgement, the bench cautioned the Election Commission to be prompt in bringing to the court's notice flouting of its directions in order to enable the court to take timely action against the parties.

The top court also modified its previous order by mandating the political parties to now publish details of candidates, including criminal records, within 48 hours of their selection and not prior to two weeks before the first date of filing of nomination.

"Political parties are to publish information regarding criminal antecedents of candidates on the homepage of their websites, thus making it easier for the voter to get to the information that has to be supplied. It will also become necessary now to have on the homepage a caption which states 'candidates with criminal
antecedents,'" the court said. 

Among other directions, the court told the Election Commission to create a dedicated mobile application containing information published by candidates regarding their criminal antecedents, and carry out an extensive awareness campaign on voters' right to know. It said the poll panel must create a separate cell to report on non-compliance by political parties.

In its February 13, 2020 judgement, the court clearly said that all the political parties have to explain why the candidates with criminal cases or background have been selected, and these political parties must upload all the details of cases against these candidates with criminal background or their detailed criminal history in their party website.