NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday turned down Election Commissions stand for taking action against candidates facing criminal charges and political parties for fielding them, but endorsed the poll watchdogs suggestion that a party which chooses to field a candidate with criminal background should mandatorily spell out reasons justifying its choice.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat said it is in agreement with the ECs suggestion that political parties be directed to publish the credentials, achievements and criminal antecedents of candidates in newspapers, social media platforms and the partys website along with the reason for preferring a candidate facing criminal cases.
“It shall be mandatory for all political parties to upload on their websites details of individuals with criminal antecedents, who have been selected as candidates, along with reasons why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected. The reasons shall have to (provide) qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned and winnability shall not be sufficient justification,” the Commission said.
Though political parties might address this requirement by noting that the candidate faces politically coloured cases, the condition does force parties to place their reasons on record. Perhaps, the expectation seems to be that the embarrassment over having too many criminals on its slate might impel parties to be more discriminating in the selection of its candidates.
The courts order also reflects limitations of efforts to keep “tainted” candidates off the ballot, given presumption of innocence until convicted. Also, the task of separating “minor” infractions like arrests during protests and dharnas and more serious criminal charges can present a different set of problems.
The bench also took into account opponents resorting to malicious litigation to get a candidate benched.“Cases with political overtones get filed and it is easy to get charges framed against a political opponent by slapping sedition charges and accusing them of being anti-national. We have to be careful as you may knock out a good candidate out of election. It would become an instrument of oppression. If charges are framed on the last date of nomination, the aggrieved candidate would be remedy-less. We have to be keenly aware about those situations,” the bench said.
The ECs suggestion was filed in compliance of an apex court order asking its counsel and senior advocate Vikas Singh to sit with senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for pRead More – Source