Decriminalising Politics: SC fines Cong, BJP, 6 other parties for contempt

The Supreme Court warned the parties that they should be cautious in future and ensure that the directions issued by it as well as the Election Commission are followed in letter and spirit.

New Delhi : In a bid to decriminalise politics, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held nine major political parties guilty of contempt and fined eight of them, including the Congress and the BJP, for not complying with directions in its February 2020 judgment, on making public criminal records of candidates selected for polls.

A bench of Justices R F Nariman and B R Gavai said: “Though we have held the Respondent No 3 to 9, 11 and 12 guilty of having committed contempt of our order dated February 13, 2020, taking into consideration that these were the first elections which were conducted after issuance of our directions, we are inclined to take a lenient view in the matter.”

It warned the parties that they should be cautious in future and ensure that the directions issued by it as well as the Election Commission are followed in letter and spirit. “We direct the Respondent Nos 3,4,5,6,7, and 11 to deposit an amount of Rs 1 lakh each in the account created by the ECI as specified in this judgment in paragraph 73(iii) within a period of 8 weeks from the date of this judgment,” added the bench. The Congress, BJP and four other parties have been fined Rs 1 lakh each.

The bench added: “Insofar as Respondent Nos 8 (Communist Party of India-Marxist) and 9 (Nationalist Congress Party) are concerned, since they have not at all complied with the directions issued by this court, we direct them to deposit an amount of Rs 5 lakh each in the aforesaid account within the aforesaid period.”

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The top court also asked the Election Commission to create a mobile app that has the information for voters to access easily. “The ECI is directed to create a dedicated mobile application containing information published by candidates regarding their criminal antecedents, so that at one stroke, each voter gets such information on his/her mobile phone,” it said.

In another step towards decriminalising politics, the top court said the details of the candidates with criminal background should be published within 48 hours of their selection. “It is clarified that the details which are required to be published, shall be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate and not prior to two weeks before the first date of filing of nominations,” it added.

The top court delivered the judgment on a petition, which sought suspending the symbol of political parties, which do not disclose the criminal backgrounds of their candidates. The petitions asked for contempt against political arties for not obeying the court judgment, in the Bihar election, held in November last year.

Last year’s ruling had said all political parties should explain why they chose candidates with a criminal background and release details of the cases on their party’s website in addition with the reasons for selecting such candidates. The Election Commission had directed political parties to publish this information on candidates in newspapers.

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