Supreme Court's attempt at 'decriminalising' politics: ECI to create mobile app, set up monitoring cell for erring political parties & more [Read Judgment]

  • Sanya Talwar
  • 04:35 PM, 10 Aug 2021

The Supreme Court has issued various directions in furtherance of the Constitution bench judgment in Public Interest Foundation and Ors. v. Union of India, (2019) 3 SCC, in its attempt to decriminalise politics.

A bench of Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai have passed additional directions in light of a contempt plea which was filed by an Advocate, Mr. Brajesh, alleging the wilful disobedience of Court orders by various political parties during the Bihar Assembly Elections in 2020, vis-à-vis publication and declaration of criminal antecedents by various political parties of their candidates.

While expressing remorse regarding the inability of the law-makers to take steps to bringing out necessary amendments in the existing laws so that the persons involved in criminal activities and with criminal antecedents are prohibited in the political stage, even though the Court has reminded them of the same time and again, the Court expressed that something urgent was undoubtedly required to be done in the matter.

Court earmarked that the line of separation of powers is something that they cannot transgress and that it hoped that the law-makers will wake up soon from their slumber and carry out a major surgery for weeding out the malignancy of criminalisation in politics.

"The nation continues to wait, and is losing patience. Cleansing the polluted stream of politics is obviously not one of the immediate pressing concerns of the legislative branch of government," the Court said
 

While delving into the issue of what can really be done to decriminalise politics, Court has also steered into the possibility of false implication by political rivals as well.

While reflecting on directions passed in the Constitution bench judgment, court has said that there is "a possibility of a rival implicating someone falsely, as a political vendetta" and that such a phenomenon is not unknown in the country. 

Taking note of the said possibilities, Court has stated that if the political parties considers that the implication is one of political vendetta, then the party can state the same. Moreover, the party can give out reasons even, to state as to why a candidate with criminal antecedents is a preferable candidate - in order to acquaint a voter with the information that they should have while exercising their right to franchise effectively.

Directions:

1) Political parties to publish info regarding criminal antecedents of candidates on homepage of their websites - a homepage caption stipulating "Candidates with criminal antecedents" gives voters easier access to information.

2) Election Commission of India is to create a dedicated mobile application containing information published by candidates regarding their criminal antecedents.

3) ECI to carry out extensive awareness campaign to make every voter aware of there rights and availability of information regarding criminal antecedents of candidates that through various means, for which a fund must be created within 4 weeks.

4) Compliance monitoring Cell to be set up by ECI to look into the requisite compliances and Court to be apprised of non-compliance.

5) As stipulated in the earlier order dated February 13, 2020, the political parties must publish the details of criminal antecedents within 48 hours of the selection of candidate. 
(This essentially means that the Court has modified its earlier direction of 2 weeks buffer to political parties)

5) If political party fails to submit compliance report with the ECI, the ECI is to bring non-compliance of the political party to the court's notice.
(Court adds that such disregard shall be dealt with very seriously)


A thorough analysis of the arguments in the judgment in simple English will be available on the website.

Case: Brajesh Singh Vs. Sunil Arora & Ors.

Also Read: Criminalisation In Politics: Supreme Court Directs Political Parties And Candidates To Comply Earlier Orders Within 48 Hours Of Selection Of Candidate

Access copy of judgment here