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Can't Disqualify Candidates On Filing Of Chargesheet, Parliament Must Frame Law: Supreme Court

ANANYA BHATNAGAR | 1
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| September 25 , 2018 , 11:59 IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a person accused of a criminal offence cannot be disqualified from contesting elections at the stage of filing of a chargesheet.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra while reading the judgment said, "Parliament must ensure that criminals must not come to politics. No bar on criminal antecedents of political leaders, it's Parliament to make laws."

A five-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice RF Nariman, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra were hearing the petitions filed by BJP Leader Ashwini Updhyaya, former CEC JM Lyngdoh & NGO, Public Interest Foundation.

In its petition filed in 2011, the NGO had essentially sought guidelines or framework to deal with the menace of criminalization of politics, and had demanded that those charged with serious offences be debarred from contesting elections.

Senior Advocates Dinesh Dwivedi and Krishnan Venugopal were representing the petitioners, while Attorney General KK Venugopal had represented the Centre. Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora appeared for the Election Commission of India, while Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra was the Amicus Curiae.

The apex court passed certain guidelines for curbing the issue of criminalization in politics. The guidelines were as follows:-

  • Candidates contesting must declare their criminal antecedents
  • Political parties must put up criminal antecedents of their candidates on their websites
  • Parliament must make law to ensure candidates with criminal antecedents don’t enter public life and take part in law making
  • Forms of Election Commission which are to be filled up candidates should contain detail about their criminal past and pending cases in bold letters
  • Political parties should issue declaration and give wide publicity in electronic media about the antecedents of the candidates

The Thin Line

The bench, in view of the principle of separation of powers and the consequent thin line between the Legislature and the Judiciary, had been disinclined to “exhort the Parliament” to lay down a law for disqualification of candidates who are facing serious charges.

No Protection Blanket

The Court, in a landmark judgment in Lily Thomas v. Union of India, had declared Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 as unconstitutional. This had rendered prayer (e) made by the petitioner infructuous.

Section 8(4) provided sitting MPs and MLAs an additional layer of protection from disqualification in case she is convicted of certain offences.