While the top court said filing of a charge sheet cannot be grounds for disqualification of legislators, it expressed concern at the criminalisation of politics
The Supreme Court (SC) has declined to disqualify lawmakers and candidates from contesting elections upon framing of criminal charges against them.
The court delivered the verdict in a batch of pleas raising a question whether Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) facing criminal trial can be disqualified from contesting elections at the stage of framing of charges against them.
A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said Parliament must make a law to prevent people with serious criminal cases pending against them from entering legislature and participate in the law-making process.
While the top court said filing of a charge sheet cannot be grounds for disqualification of legislators, it expressed concern at the criminalisation of politics. The apex court issued a number of directions.
The court directed political parties to give wide publicity of the list of cases pending against a candidate. Such information must be put up on their websites and be widely shared in local media, both print and electronic, the court added.
On criminalisation of politics, the bench said "time has come for Parliament to keep criminals away".
In a separate verdict, the court ruled that it cannot restrict MPs and MLAs from practising as lawyers.
Presently, lawmakers are barred under the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act from contesting elections only after their conviction in a criminal case.
The bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, had earlier indicated that voters have a right to know the antecedents of candidates and the Election Commission could be asked to direct political parties to ensure that persons facing criminal charges do not contest on their tickets using their poll symbols.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had earlier said that Parliament has made a distinction between an accused and a convict and there has been a provision for disqualification in the RP Act upon conviction of a lawmaker.
The Election Commission of India (EC) had taken a view which was apparently opposite to the Centre and said the recommendations for decriminalising politics were made by the poll panel and the Law Commission way back in 1997 and 1998, but no action was taken on them.
It exhorted the court to issue the direction in the matter besides asking Parliament to make the suitable law.With PTI inputs