Nine political parties including the BJP and Congress were held guilty of contempt and fined today by the Supreme Court for not making public criminal records of their poll candidates.
The Congress, BJP and five other parties have been fined ₹ 1 lakh each. The CPM and the Nationalist Congress Party have been fined ₹ 5 lakh for not following the order in last year’s Bihar election.
The Supreme Court warned parties to be cautious about declaring the criminal records of candidates in the future and displaying the information on their websites. The Election Commission has been asked to create a mobile app that has the information for voters to access easily.
Records of criminal cases have to be made public by parties within 48 hours of the candidate’s selection, the Supreme Court said in a big step towards decriminalising politics.
In an earlier ruling in February last year linked to the Bihar election in November, the Supreme Court had said candidates must upload these details either within 48 hours of their selection or at least two weeks before the first date of filing nomination papers. That has now been limited to only 48 hours.
The court is hearing a petition that calls for suspending the symbol of political parties that do not disclose the criminal backgrounds of their candidates.
Petitions have asked for contempt against political parties for not obeying the February 2020 orders of the Supreme Court.
That verdict had said all political parties had to explain why they chose candidates with criminal cases and disclose details of the cases on their party website along with the reasons for selecting such candidates.
The Election Commission had directed political parties to publish this information on candidates in newspapers.
The CPI(M) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had given an unconditional apology to the Supreme Court for not following orders on disclosing the criminal antecedents of their candidates in the Bihar assembly polls
The Election Commission had told the court it would suspend their symbols in line with the Supreme Court order.