The Supreme Court Tuesday said it could not add more disqualifications to the Representation of the People Act and left it to Parliament to decide whether candidates chargesheeted in serious criminal cases should be allowed to contest elections. Stating that India was facing an increasing trend of criminalisation of politics, the bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said the “nation eagerly waits for such legislation (against criminalisation of politics)”.
The apex court, however, issued directions to candidates to state in bold in their election forms the criminal cases pending against them and inform their parties of the same. It directed political parties to mention pending cases against legislators on their websites and publish the same in a widely circulated newspaper at least three times after the nomination is filed.
The bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, was hearing a batch of petitions seeking disqualification of chargesheeted lawmakers from contesting elections. The petitions were filed by NGO Public Interest Foundation and Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The bench had reserved its verdict in the case on August 28.
Reacting to the judgment, Upadhyay was quoted as saying by news agency ANI, “We had demanded from SC to ward off candidates from contesting polls against whom charges have been framed in heinous crimes. Validating our demand, SC has directed Parliament to pass a law that can stop criminalisation of politics.”
During the hearing, Attorney General K K Venugopal, representing the Centre, had opposed the plea saying that under the Indian law, there is presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. Further, he had told the court that the judiciary cannot get into law-making, which is reserved for the legislature.
Under the RP Act, lawmakers are barred from contesting elections only after their conviction in a criminal case.
In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court in March this year, the Centre said a total of 3,816 criminal cases were registered against 1,765 MPs and MLAs across the country, of which 3,045 cases are pending. The figures did not include cases registered in Maharashtra and Goa. Uttar Pradesh leads the pack with 565 cases against 248 MPs and MLAs, followed by Kerala with 533 cases against 114 legislators. Tamil Nadu is third on the list with 402 cases against 178 MPs and MLAs, of which 324 are pending.