New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Election Commission to work out a mechanism to curb criminalization of politics in nation's interest as the poll watchdog said that the 2018 order to declare criminal antecedents by the apex court to curb the problem has not been helpful.
The bench comprising of Justices R.F. Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat was hearing a plea by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay that alleged that Election commission neither amended the Election Symbol Order, 1968 nor the model code of conduct (MCC) so the said notification has no legal sanction.
The plea said the EC neither published a list of leading newspapers-news channels for the purpose nor clarified the timing for declaration of criminal antecedents by candidates. This led to the candidates publishing the required information in newspapers and news channels that were not very popular and at odd hours, it added.
The court also asked the poll body to come up with a framework within one week, which can contribute towards the larger issue of containing the entry of candidates having criminal background into politics, which will eventually serve the national interest.
The top court had said measures to weed out criminal elements from politics if implemented in true spirit and right earnestness will strengthen the democratic set-up.
A five-judge Constitution bench in 2018 had unanimously held that all candidates will have to declare their criminal background to the poll panel before contesting polls and called for a wider publicity, through print and electronic media about antecedents of candidates.
"The candidate as well as the concerned political party shall issue a declaration in the widely circulated newspapers in the locality about the antecedents of the candidate and also give wide publicity in the electronic media. When we say wide publicity, we mean that same shall be done at least thrice after filing of nomination papers," the bench had ordered in 2018.
Fielding candidates with criminal antecedents has been one of the key concerns in the recent elections. The extent of this can be understood from the fact that according to an analysis by New Delhi based Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), nearly half the MPs of the 17th Lok Sabha elected in May last year had declared criminal cases against them. Out of the 539 MPs which ADR analysed, 233 had declared criminal cases against them which was an increase of 44% in the number of MPs with declared criminal cases since 2009.
In its analysis released in May last year, ADR added that out of the 542 MPs analysed during Lok Sabha polls in 2014, 34% or 185 had declared criminal cases against themselves while out of 543 in 2009, 30% or 162 had declared criminal cases against themselves.
Anuja and PTI contributed to this story.