SC disinclined to issue orders on tainted candidates

The Supreme Court said we will see what can be done about disclosure of criminal records of the candidates as there was demand for prominent display of pending cases against them in publicity materials since all voters do not get the opportunity to go thr

The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed its disinclination in issuing any direction to political parties to deny tickets to candidates charged with heinous offences, saying it would amount to creating new disqualifications under the law.

A five-judge Constitution bench presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, however, said we will see what can be done about disclosure of criminal records of the candidates as there was demand for prominent display of pending cases against them in publicity materials since all voters do not get the opportunity to go through election affidavits.

The top court reserved its judgement on a batch of petitions filed by NGO PIL Foundation and advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, among others.

The bench referred to the contention of Attorney General K K Venugopal, who said going back from the stage of conviction to that of charge was not acceptable as the presumption of innocence was attached throughout.

“The moment we declare a person charged with, he cannot contest on a symbol of a recognised political party, it would tantamount to creating new disqualification from the back door,” Justice R F Nariman said, in the bench also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

Senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal, representing one of the PIL petitioners, contended if a person cannot be appointed as a judge or a senior bureaucrat if he or she was charged with heinous offences. Should we not expect a minimum standard of rectitude from legislators, he asked.

Most jurisdictions, except Mexico, disqualifies a person only after the conviction, India has seen about 30% increase in candidates with criminal antecedents, despite the disclosure of cases pending against them, he said.

The bench, however, said empirical data cannot be ground to render judgement in a case like this nature.

The bench also pointed out there could be wider considerations for voters to elect a particular candidate. “It may not be necessary that voters like to vote those with criminal antecedents,” Justice Chandrachud said.

Senior advocate Dinesh Dwivedi said the right to contest was merely a statutory right which can be curtailed and regulated.

Supporting the petitioners, senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, representing the Election Commission, submitted there should be an obligation on political parties not to give tickets to candidates, charged with serious criminal offences.

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SC disinclined to issue orders on tainted candidates

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