The Supreme Court on Thursday took a key step to weed out politicians facing allegations of criminal background from electoral process, asking political parties to publish details of charges against their candidates on its website during the elections. The order is likely to have an impact on the forthcoming assembly elections in Bihar later this year.

This is not the first time that the apex court has taken such a step. In 2018, the top court had asked political parties to publicize criminal antecedents of contestants over news media but this was poorly complied with.

Both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress welcomed the order, describing it as a move to strengthen electoral democracy.

Senior leaders of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) believe that the order is a wake-up call for political parties as these decisions should have been taken by the parties on their own without waiting for the apex court to spell out the steps that political parties should be taking.

“There is no doubt that the process of candidate selection is very opaque and most of the time, people do not know why a particular candidate has been named for a constituency. There are many considerations for announcing a candidate. Mostly, it is about caste combination, popularity, and the candidate’s chance of winning, even if the person is facing criminal charges. The direction of the Supreme Court is a positive step," said a senior NDA leader on the condition of anonymity.

Paras Jain/Mint
Paras Jain/Mint

The Supreme Court on Thursday took a key step to weed out politicians facing allegations of criminal background from electoral process, asking political parties to publish details of charges against their candidates on its website during the elections. The order is likely to have an impact on the forthcoming assembly elections in Bihar later this year.

This is not the first time that the apex court has taken such a step. In 2018, the top court had asked political parties to publicize criminal antecedents of contestants over news media but this was poorly complied with.

Both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress welcomed the order, describing it as a move to strengthen electoral democracy.

Senior leaders of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) believe that the order is a wake-up call for political parties as these decisions should have been taken by the parties on their own without waiting for the apex court to spell out the steps that political parties should be taking.

“There is no doubt that the process of candidate selection is very opaque and most of the time, people do not know why a particular candidate has been named for a constituency. There are many considerations for announcing a candidate. Mostly, it is about caste combination, popularity, and the candidate’s chance of winning, even if the person is facing criminal charges. The direction of the Supreme Court is a positive step," said a senior NDA leader on the condition of anonymity.


“It strengthens the electoral democratic process by enabling voters to make a choice keeping all factors in mind," said BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said the reasons for selecting candidates with pending criminal cases should be justifiable with reference to qualification and merit and not merely on winnability. It asked political parties to publish on their websites reasons for selecting candidates facing criminal charges and information about the others who were also considered for the constituency.

However, a political blame game has already started between the BJP and the Congress, the two leading parties in the country, over the Supreme Court order.

The Congress has categorically blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not doing enough to stop people facing criminal cases from contesting elections. The party pointed to the appointment of Anand Singh as a minister in the Karnataka government. Singh is an accused in a mining case, the Congress said, and contended that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made tainted leaders ministers.

“Today itself, Modi has torn to shreds the orders of giving reasons for giving tickets to leaders accused in cases," Randeep Singh Surjewala, senior Congress leader tweeted.

“Modi and BJP again come to the rescue of ‘Bellary Gang’! SC says give reasons for giving tickets to tainted Netas or contempt! Modiji says make tainted Netas not MLA’s alone but Ministers of the ministry, which has been allegedly looted! Will SC issue contempt of PM and Karnataka CM?" Surjewala asked.

Later, at a media briefing, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said the party welcomes the apex court’s decision as a key step towards decriminalizing politics and said that it was a “vindication" of the fight of party leader Rahul Gandhi.

Political parties have welcomed the step, but question if the Supreme Court order infringes on the powers of the elected representatives.

Senior NDA leaders point out that implementation of the order could be a difficult task for the political parties.

“The order is a welcome step but the real problem is that Supreme Court has only ordered political parties to give information on their website, but does not say that the direction is binding. Political parties can still choose to nominate people with criminal cases against them," the NDA leader quoted above said.

PTI contributed to this story.

Close
×
My Reads Logout