NEW DELHI: Criminalisation of politics strikes at the very root of democracy by making the citizenry suffer at the hands of those "who are nothing but a liability" to the country, the Supreme Court said Tuesday.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra held that constitutional functionaries, who have taken a pledge to uphold constitutional principles, were charged with the responsibility to ensure that the existing political framework does not get tainted with the "evil of corruption".
In a 100-page unanimous verdict penned by the CJI, the apex court left it to Parliament to make a law to ensure that persons facing serious criminal cases do not enter the political stream.
"This unsettlingly increasing trend of criminalisation of politics, to which our country has been a witness, tends to disrupt the constitutional ethos and strikes at the very root of our democratic form of government by making our citizenry suffer at the hands of those who are nothing but a liability to our country," the bench, which also comprised justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, said.
The top court said despite the "heavy mandate" prescribed by the Constitution, India being the world's largest democracy has seen a "steady increase" in the level of criminalisation that has been creeping into the Indian polity.
In its verdict, the bench noted the submission of Attorney General K K Venugopal that the court should not cross the "lakshman rekha" vis-a-vis the separation of powers. The top court said going by the constitutional framework, it would be inappropriate for the court to take recourse to any other method as it cannot legislate but only recommend bringing in of a law.
While referring to constitutional provisions, the bench said that according to the laws laid down earlier, it was clear that regarding disqualification of lawmakers "the law has to be made by Parliament".
"It would not be appropriate to take recourse to any other method for the simon-pure reason that what cannot be done directly, should not be done indirectly," the bench said.
The verdict by the Constitution bench was pronounced on a batch of pleas which raised a question whether lawmakers facing criminal trial can be disqualified from contesting elections at the stage of framing of charges against them.
According to the prevalent law, a person will stand immediately disqualified if convicted for a crime and sentenced to two years or above.