SC says lawmakers facing criminal charges can contest elections until convicted

Citizens have a right to be informed about the antecedents of their candidates, added the top court.

SC says lawmakers facing criminal charges can contest elections until convicted

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that it won’t debar MPs and MLAs facing criminal charges from contesting elections. Putting the ball in the Parliament's court, the top court said the highest legislative body of the country should ensure that criminals must not come to politics and frame a law on the issue.

Citizens have a right to be informed about the antecedents of their candidates, said the top court. 

"Informed choice is cornerstone of democracy, says SC and terms criminalisation of politics of the largest democracy as unsettling," said a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising of Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

"Political parties shall be obligated to put all information about their candidates on their websites,” said the SC.

Candidates also have to declare their criminal antecedents to the Election Commission before contesting an election with forms filled by them detailing about criminal past and pending cases in bold letter.

However, serving MPs and MLAs can practice as lawyers.

The SC also directed wider publicity, through print and electronic media, about the antecedents of candidates affiliated to political parties. 

The bench had already reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas on August 28.

"We had demanded from SC to ward off candidates from contesting polls against whom charges have been framed in heinous crimes. Validating our demand, SC has directed Parliament to pass a law that can stop criminalization of politics," said advocate Ashwini Upadhyay.

The petitions were filed by various parties including NGO 'Public Interest Foundation' and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, which exhorted the court to venture into the area of barring a person or a lawmaker from entering into electoral politics after framing charges against them in criminal cases. 

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