The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that it was "not in a position to add disqualification of candidates on the filing of charge sheet in criminal cases". 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.
Leaving it to Parliament to stop criminals from contesting polls, the court said: “National interest demands Parliament enacts such legislation and the country awaits such a legislation.”
Currently, lawmakers are barred under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act from contesting elections only after their conviction in a criminal case.”We are not in a position to add disqualification of candidates on the filing of charge sheet in criminal cases,” Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said, reading out the order.
The Supreme Court said that choice is the cornerstone of democracy and criminalisation of politics of the largest democracy as unsettling. The court also said that there should be a law to prevent persons with heinous criminal cases against them from entering Parliament or state Assemblies and become lawmakers.
The Apex Court also asked candidates and political parties to give wide publicity on criminal cases pending against the candidates in the local media, both print and electronic, after they file nomination to contest the polls.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also held that each candidate shall declare his/her criminal antecedents to the election commission (EC) before contesting an election. The Supreme Court said that citizens have a right to be informed about the antecedents of their candidates
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. The verdict was reserved on August 28.
The Supreme Court also said that Bar Council of India rules does not prohibit legislators from practising as lawyers. It dismissed a plea seeking to bar advocate lawmakers from practising in courts of law across the country.
(With PTI inputs)