New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked political parties to bring on record reasons for selection of candidates with pending criminal cases, and added mere "winnability at polls" couldn't be attributed as a reason for the selection.
A Bench headed by Justice R.F. Nariman said, "It appears over the last four general elections, there has been an alarming rise in incidence of criminals in politics."
The apex court noted the political parties offered no explanation for selection of candidates with pending criminal cases.
The apex court said: "It shall be mandatory for political parties (at central and state polls) to upload on their websites detailed information regarding selected individuals with pending criminal cases. The information must include the nature of offences, and relevant details, such as whether charges have been framed, the court concerned and the case number."
Taking a step further, the court also sought clarification from political parties on the selection such candidates. "Along with the reasons for such selection, also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents couldn't be selected as candidates," said the court.
Moreover, the "selection shall be with reference to qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere 'winnability' at the polls," it said.
Issuing specific directions on publication of criminal antecedents in the public domain, the court said it should also be published in one local vernacular newspaper and one national newspaper; on the official social media platforms of the political party, including Facebook and Twitter.
"These details shall be published within 48 hours of selection of candidate or not less than two weeks, before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier. The political party concerned shall then submit a report of compliance with these directions with the Election Commission within 72 hours of selection of the said candidate," observed the court.
If a party failed to submit a compliance report with the Election Commission, the poll panel should bring on record "such non-compliance by the political party concerned to the notice of the Supreme Court as being in contempt of this court's orders/directions," it said.
In 2004, 24 per cent MPs had criminal cases pending against them. In 2009, the number went up to 30 per cent, in 2014 to 34 per cent and in 2019 to 43 per cent.
The order came on a contempt plea, filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay. He had filed the contempt plea against political parties allowing candidates with criminal background causing criminalisation of politics.
The petitioner claimed the directions given by the apex court in the September 2018 verdict on the disclosure of criminal antecedents by candidates was not being followed in the letter and spirit.