The Supreme Court was due to rule on an important issue today —whether candidates with criminal charges can contest elections.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that it won’t debar MPs and MLAs facing criminal charges from contesting elections. The court said that they can be stopped from contesting elections only if convicted in a criminal case.
However, the top court said that the citizens have a right to be informed about the antecedents of their candidates. Candidates have to declare their criminal antecedents to the Election Commission before contesting an election, added the SC.
A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprised of Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, read out the verdict. The bench had already reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas on August 28.
If people with criminal charges would be barred from contesting elections it would have been a big step towards decriminalization of politics and may end many political careers.
At present, a charge sheet does not debar a person from contesting elections and cases usually take years to be decided. As a tentative measure, on 1 November 2017, the Supreme Court had directed the centre to set up special fast track courts to try more than 1,581 cases pending against legislators.
The centre had said that ₹65 lakh will be required for setting up each court, amounting to ₹7.8 crore for 12 courts, which were then set up across 11 states
A PIL filed in 2016 by advocate and Delhi Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) spokesperson Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, demanded that an order be issued directing the Centre to take necessary steps to debar persons charged with criminal offences from contesting elections, forming a political party and becoming office-bearers of any party. The plea also sought a direction to the centre and the Election Commission (EC) to fix minimum educational qualifications and maximum age limit for candidates.
However, Central government opposed the PIL filed by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking a ban on Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) from practicing law in the courts.
EC’s initial stand in court was that it supported decriminalization of politics through a lifetime ban on MPs and MLAs, who at present, can contest elections even after being convicted in criminal cases.
One of the political outfits in Uttar Pradesh has already offered a Lok Sabha ticket to Shambhulal Regar. He is the same man who had lynched and burnt Mohammed Afrazul in Rajsamand, Rajasthan last year. He had also shot a video of his act where he justified the murder by saying that he would not allow ‘Love Jihad’.from the constituency of Agra.
Rupendra Rana, one of the accused who murdered Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri in 2015 over suspicion of eating beef will also be contesting the general election next year on Uttar Pradesh’s Navnirman Sena ticket.
The controversial outfit has further decided to field Vikas Kumar, a Haryanvi singer from Mathura. Kumar had recently sent a legal notice of Rs 7 crore to the makers of “Veerey Ki Wedding” for allegedly using his song without his permission.