Restrict political parties from fielding candidates with criminal antecedents: PIL

The petition said a person with criminal charges cannot become a doctor or an engineer but can become a legislator

PIL, Public Interest Litigation, Supreme Court, political parties, field candidates, criminal charges
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A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court has sought directions for restricting political parties from fielding candidates against whom charges have been framed in serious offences.

The PIL stated that allowing criminals to contest and become legislators is “extremely serious” with regard to democracy.

It has sought directions for every political party to put up complete details of the contesting candidates on the home page of its website, and publish criminal antecedents in three most-watched news channels between 9 am to 9 pm and three most circulated newspapers two days before the day of polling.

The petition, filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay through lawyer Ashwani Kumar Dubey, said that a person against whom charges have been framed cannot become a doctor or an engineer but can become a legislator.

It has sought insertion of an additional condition that “a political party shall not set up candidate with criminal antecedents” in Paragraph 6A: Conditions for recognition as a State Party, Paragraph 6B: Conditions for recognition as a National Party, and Paragraph 6C: Conditions for continued recognition as a National or State Party of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

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It has also sought directions to introduce a definition that “a candidate with criminal antecedents means a person against whom charges have been framed at least one year before the date of scrutiny of nominations for an offence with maximum punishment of five years or more” in paragraph 2 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

“If the proposed direction is given, there would be no need even for an enquiry by the ECI because candidates are required by Section 33A of the Representation of the People Act read with Rule 4A of the Conduct of Election Rules and Form 26 to file along with their nomination papers an affidavit containing detailed information relating to the framing of charges against them for offences punishable with imprisonment of more than 2 years,” the plea said.

The PIL said a person against whom charges have been framed in serious offences, cannot become a Doctor, Engineer, Primary Teacher, Professor, Army Officer, Police Officer, Judicial Officer, District Magistrate, District Judge, Metropolitan Magistrate and Judge of the High Court and Supreme Court.

“But, he can contest elections, become MLA, MP and even Minister, which is arbitrary, irrational and offends Article 14 of the Constitution. This is a matter of serious concern to both – democracy and rule of law, because many Legislators are prima facie involved in serious criminal cases,” it added.

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The petition said that all advertisements for the candidature of an individual to the election shall compulsorily and prominently carry details of age and educational qualification, criminal cases against him in which charges have been framed with description of every offence in bold letters and combined value of fixed and movable assets of the candidate and his family members/blood relatives.

“Every candidate shall publish the above details at least thrice in leading News Channels between 9 am and 9 pm and thrice in widely circulated Newspapers within seven days of his nomination. The political party shall publish the aforesaid information on the Home Page of its Website within 24 Hours of the nomination and keep it till polling date,” the plea said.

The PIL said that if the above guidelines are not adhered to, the Returning Officer shall reject the nomination of the candidate. “The above conditions shall be incorporated in Election Symbol Order, Model Code of Conduct and Instructions of the ECI for effective compliance. Any violation of the above directions would invite opposite action by the ECI against a concerned political party.

“The Court may be pleased to direct the ECI to publish the above details constituency-wise on its website and thrice through leading news channels between 9 am-9 pm and thrice in widely circulated newspapers within seven days of nomination. The budget may be charged from the consolidated fund of India,” the plea said.