EC reply sought on candidates' criminal antecedents
Updated:  Mar 29, 2019, 05:48 PM
The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from the Election Commission (EC) on a contempt plea for its failure to take steps to enforce a top court judgment mandating the political parties and their candidates in the electoral fray to give wide publicity to the criminal antecedents of the selected candidates.
The bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran sought a response from the EC as it was told that the poll panel has failed to take steps in the spirit of its September 25, 2018 constitution bench judgment that mandated the political parties and their candidates to give wide publicity -- both on the print and visual media -- about the criminal antecedents of the candidates in the electoral fray.
Appealing for the PIL petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who has moved the contempt plea against the poll panel, counsel Gopal Sankaranarayanan told the court that the EC has not taken steps to implement the September 25, 2018 judgment in its true spirit by modifying the Form 26 in which a candidate discloses all the details about himself including assets and pending criminal cases, if any and in the Symbol Order.
He told the court that after the Lok Sabha elections are over, there could be a flood of contempt pleas against the successful candidates for not complying with the top court judgment.
Senior counsel Vikas Singh appearing for the EC sought a week's time to respond to the contempt plea.
Upadhyay said a response has also been sought from the Cabinet Secretary and the Law Secretary for not taking steps on the top court suggestion to enact a law to address the malaise of criminals entering legislatures.
Upadhyay in his contempt plea has contended that though the Election Commission had issued directions to the political parties and the candidates for publication of criminal antecedents but without amending the Election Symbol Order and Model Code of Conduct these directions have no legal sanctity.
Pointing out that the poll panel has not published a list of leading newspapers and news channels with wide circulation and viewership in which the publicity to criminal antecedents has to be given, Upadhyay has contended that it was being taken advantage of by the candidates who were publicising the details of their criminal antecedents in little known newspapers with a short readership base.
Seeking that publicity be given in the visual media on prime time spots, Upadhyay has asserted that presently the publicity was being done through channels with less viewership reach. Even in these channels the publicity is telecast at late hours when the world is sleeping.
The top court by its September 25 judgment, while urging the Parliament to enact a law to address the malaise of criminals entering legislatures, had directed the political parties to post on their websites and widely publicise in the media, both print and electronic, full details of the criminal charges against the candidates they would be fielding in the elections.
The court had directed that the candidate as well as the concerned political party "shall issue a declaration in the widely circulated newspapers in the locality about the antecedents of the candidate and also give wide publicity in the electronic media".
The court had said that the time had come for Parliament to enact a law to "cleanse the polluted stream of politics" by prohibiting people with criminal antecedents in the political system. "The nation eagerly waits for such legislation... and the sooner the better, before it becomes fatal to democracy," the court said.
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