'...in deep slumber': SC pulls up, fines parties over criminal candidates
New Delhi, August 10, 2021
Emphasising criminalisation of the political system should not be permitted by lawmakers, the Supreme Court on Tuesday rued that political parties "refuse to wake up from deep slumber" and take steps to "weed out the malignancy of criminalisation in politics".
A bench of Justices R. F. Nariman and B. R. Gavai said: "We can only appeal to the conscience of the lawmakers and hope that they will wake up soon and carry out a major surgery for weeding out the malignancy of criminalisation in politics."
The bench stressed that no one can deny that the menace of criminalisation in the Indian political system is growing day by day. However, the only question is, whether this court can do so by issuing directions which do not have foundation in the statutory provisions, it added.
Citing the constitutional scheme of separation of powers, the bench said though "we desire that something urgently requires to be done in the matter, our hands are tied and we cannot transgress into the area reserved for the legislative arm of the state".
"This court, time and again, has appealed to the lawmakers of the country to rise to the occasion and take steps for bringing out necessary amendments so that the involvement of persons with criminal antecedents in polity is prohibited. All these appeals have fallen on the deaf ears. The political parties refuse to wake up from deep slumber," it said.
The bench said the nation continues to wait and is losing patience. "Cleansing the polluted stream of politics is obviously not one of the immediate pressing concerns of the legislative branch of government," it added, in its 71-page judgment.
The bench cited a constitution bench judgment, which observed that though criminalisation in politics is a bitter manifest truth, which is a termite in the citadel of democracy, the court cannot make laws. It emphasised that it cannot issue directions which would indirectly provide for disqualification of a candidate.
The top court held nine political parties guilty of contempt for not complying with directions issued in its February 2020, judgment, on making public criminal records of candidates selected for polls. These parties are: the Janata Dal-United, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Lok Janshakti Party, the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communist Party of India, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, and the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party.
Six parties, including the BJP and the Congress, were fined Rs 1 lakh and two - the NCP and the CPI-M, were fined Rs 5 lakh.
The top court delivered judgment on contempt petitions filed by Brajesh Singh and Manish Kumar, alleging that the court's earlier directions passed on February 13, 2020, were not complied with by political parties during the Bihar Assembly polls, which were held in November last year.