On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that political parties must reveal their candidates’ possible criminal records within 48 hours of their nomination, revising a previous ruling from February 2020.
To decriminalize politics, the Supreme Court has ordered that the facts be publicized within 48 hours of the candidate’s selection or not less than two weeks before the first day for filing nominations, whichever is earlier, in paragraph 4.4 of the February 2020 verdict.
On Tuesday, the bench announced that it had modified paragraph 4.4 of the abovementioned verdict and will be published within 48 hours.
The court has also issued some additional instructions, which will be revealed once the complete copy of the ruling is made available.
The bench was handing down its decision on contempt petitions citing failing to publicize criminal antecedents of candidates in the November 2020 Bihar Assembly elections.
Petitions have been filed seeking contempt charges against political parties for failing to comply with the Supreme Court’s February 2020 rulings.
In not more than two years, the number of criminal proceedings pending against serving and former MPs and MLAs has increased by 17%.
The Ruling Statement of the Supreme Court
Last month, the Supreme Court stated that no political party was interested in enacting legislation to decriminalize politics by prohibiting candidates from running if they have been charged with serious crimes by the courts.
The legislative branch of the government was not keen on taking such a step.
According to the ruling, all political parties must explain why they choose candidates with criminal records and post details of the cases and the grounds for their selection on their party’s website.
Political parties were required by the Election Commission to publish this information on candidates in newspapers.
According to The Representation of People Act, an MP or MLA convicted by the court and gets more than two years of prison sentence is barred from contesting elections for the duration of his imprisonment, several years after his release.
The Act disqualifies a candidate for engaging in corrupt electoral practises, which must be shown in court by another candidate in opposition. There is no way to disqualify a candidate before they are convicted.
However, the court did note that the idea of a “rival wrongfully accusing someone as a political revenge is not unknown in the country.”
“In such a situation, the political party can always give the reason why a candidate with criminal antecedents is getting considered to be more suitable than a candidate without criminal antecedents,” the bench said.
“The reasons could be many, and in case the political party is of the prima facie opinion that such a candidate is facing false implication, it can state it.”