Netas Can’t be Barred From Contesting Before Conviction, Must Cite Criminal Cases in Bold: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to interfere in a plea seeking to debar candidates facing criminal charges from contesting elections and has stated that MPs, MLAs would not be disqualified before conviction.

The top court has now left it to the parliament to decide on the issue.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that decriminalisation of politics was an important issue but “it cannot make laws” on the same.

The Supreme Court has also issued a slew of directions to usher in best practices. It has stated that, every candidate should fill up forms with criminal cases in bold letters. Every political party must be informed about pending criminal cases and the party’s website should have these details. The court said that the citizens have a right to be informed about the antecedents of their candidates. The verdict was unanimously passed.

The verdict was pronounced on a batch of pleas raising a question whether lawmakers facing criminal trial can be disqualified from contesting elections at the stage of framing of charges against them.

The status before the filing of these petitions was that lawmakers were barred under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act from contesting elections only after their conviction in a criminal case.

According to Milan Vaishnav’s book When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics, in 2004, while 24% MPs had criminal cases against them, those with serious cases made up 12%. By 2014, the numbers had risen to 34% and 21%, respectively.

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