SC to consider hearing plea seeking disclosure of criminal background of candidates before polls

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would consider listing for hearing a plea seeking a direction to the Election Commission to ensure that political parties publish details regarding criminal cases of candidates along with the reason for their selection on their websites. A bench comprising Chief Justice of India N V Ramana and Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli was urged by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, who has filed the PIL in his personal capacity, that the plea be listed urgently keeping in mind the ongoing election process.

“Nomination for the first phase of election has started and the political parties and candidates are brazenly violating the two apex court judgements,” the lawyer said.

“We will consider it. I will give a date,” the CJI said.

Besides seeking disclosure of criminal history of candidates on websites of political parties, the PIL has also sought a direction to the poll panel to ensure that every politician publishes the details in electronic, print, and social media, and to file a contempt case against the president of the party which violates such directions.

The plea said the petition was filed after the Samajwadi Party, which is a registered and recognised political party, fielded alleged gangster Nahid Hasan from Kairana assembly in Uttar Pradesh but neither published his criminal records in electronic, print, or social media nor the reason of his selection within 48 hours in the spirit of the direction passed earlier by the Supreme Court.

“Nahid Hasan is in custody under the Gangster Act imposed on him around 11 months ago and he is the first candidate to file nomination in the first phase of Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections. On February 13, 2021, the Shamli Police imposed the Gangster Act on Nahid Hasan, the two-time MLA from Kairana.

“He has multiple criminal cases and is the mastermind behind the Hindu exodus from Kairana. There are many criminal cases including fraud and extortion and was declared a fugitive by Special MLA-MP Court,” the plea alleged.

The consequences of permitting criminals to contest become legislators are extremely serious for democracy and secularism, it added.

The petition, in view of upcoming assembly elections, also sought a direction to the ECI to ensure that every political party explains why it preferred a person with criminal cases and did not select a candidate without criminal antecedents.

The petition also seeks direction to the Election Commission to de-register the political party, which violates the directions of the Supreme Court, the petition, filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, said.

It added that during the electoral process itself, not only do they pump in enormous amounts of illegal money to interfere with the outcome but also intimidate voters or rival candidates.

“Thereafter, in our weak rule-of-law, once they gain entry to the governance as legislators, they interfere with, and influence, the functioning of government machinery in favour of themselves and their organisation by corrupting government officers and, where that does not work, by using their contacts with ministers to make threats of transfer and initiation of disciplinary proceedings. Some become ministers, which makes the situation worse,” it submitted.

The plea added that legislators with criminal antecedents attempt to subvert the administration of justice and attempt by hook or crook to prevent cases against themselves from being concluded and, where possible, to obtain acquittals.

Long delays in disposal of cases and low conviction rates are a testimony to their influence, it contended.

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