Parties must also publish the reason for the selection of candidates, including their merits and achievements, besides winnability
Taking note of the "alarming increase" in the number of candidates having criminal antecedents in the last four general elections, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed all the political parties to upload on their websites within 48 hours the details of criminal cases against their candidates upon clearing the name.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman directed the national and state political parties to also give reasons as to why they preferred a person with the criminal antecedent in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
The court's direction came on a contempt petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, which sought action against the authorities and parties for not complying fully with a September 2018 judgment of a Constitution Bench, which had directed political parties to publish online the pending criminal cases of their candidates.
Parties are also directed to publish the reason for the selection of candidates, including their merits and achievements, besides winnability. They have to also justify why they couldn't set up clean candidates, the apex court said in its verdict.
The Bench further directed the political parties to upload the information in this regard on their social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as well as publish them in local newspapers. The Court said that information should contain the nature of crime and the stage of trial and investigation in the case.
The top court directed that all political parties must submit compliance reports to the Election Commission within 72 hours of selecting the candidate with pending criminal cases, failing to which will result in a contempt action. It also asked the EC to follow up on the matter.
Recently, the EC had made a proposition before the apex court to ask political parties to not give the ticket to those with criminal antecedents.
Election Commission and petitioner Upadhyay had submitted to the apex court a framework jointly prepared as 'Criminal Antecedents of Candidates (Reporting and Publication) Order, 2020'.
The proposal submitted by them has mandated rejection of the nomination of candidates and suspension of the symbol of political parties.
It noted that there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics. In 2004, 24 per cent MPs had criminal cases pending against them, while in 2009 it reached 30 per cent. In 2014 the number went up to 34 percent and in 2019 it reached 43 per cent.
The five-judge Constitution Bench in 2018 judgment had requested the Parliament to bring a "strong law" to cleanse political parties of leaders facing trial for serious crimes.
The top court had said that the rapid criminalisation of politics cannot be arrested by merely disqualifying tainted legislators but "should begin by cleansing the political parties".
The Supreme Court in 2018 had suggested that Parliament should frame a law that makes it obligatory for political parties to remove leaders charged with "heinous and grievous" crimes like rape, murder and kidnapping, and other offenses, and refuse ticket to offenders in both parliamentary and Assembly polls.
It had also issued guidelines, including that both the candidate and the political party should declare the criminal antecedents of the candidate in widely-circulated newspapers and electronic media as well.