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Supreme Court reserves verdict on plea against political parties failing to declare criminal records of candidates in Bihar election

A lawyer has moved a contempt petition in the Supreme Court against Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and leaders of prominent political parties for not fully adhering to an apex court order by allowing “dreaded criminals” contest in the Bihar Assembly polls.

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The Supreme court bench led by Justice R.F. Nariman and Justice B.R. Gavai reserved verdict on the plea for contempt action against political parties which failed to declare and publicize criminal antecedents of their candidates in the Bihar election.

Amicus curiae K.V. Vishwanathan tells the bench that two political parties i.e. CPIM and Nationalist Congress Party have not given any details of criminal antecedents of candidates in the Bihar election.“Parties must face consequences for the breach. There could be a financial penalty at least. Other parties should also be examined whether they properly followed the rules or was there violation.” Sr. Adv. K.V. Vishwanathan submitted. 

Sr adv Harish Salve for ECI said, “if the court will pass orders for contempt the financial penalty should not be symbolic Re 1. We should not have pictures taken of leaders smiling and handing over a coin.”

A lawyer has moved a contempt petition in the Supreme Court against Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and leaders of prominent political parties for not fully adhering to an apex court order by allowing “dreaded criminals” contest in the Bihar Assembly polls.

Advocate Brajesh Singh, lawyer based in Delhi, has arraigned, besides Mr. Arora, Chief Electoral Officer for Bihar H.R. Srinivas, JD(U) general secretary K.C. Tyagi, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s State president Jagdanand Singh, Lok Jan Shakti Party leader Abdul Khalik, Congress party leader R.S. Surjewala and B.L. Santosh of the BJP as respondents. Mr. Singh, who is a petitioner-in-person, said the February 13, 2020 direction of the Supreme Court for political parties to publish the criminal antecedents of their candidates in “widely circulated in newspapers” was wilfully disobeyed by political parties in the elections.

The lawyer said the court had ordered parties to publish on their websites the reasons for selecting such candidates and why other individuals without a criminal record were not found better-suited to contest the elections. Mr. Singh said the parties published the details of their candidates in only one Hindi newspaper and gave similar reasons for their choice of candidates. These reasons, the lawyer pointed out, invariably were “popularity of the person, social work, educational background, that cases were filed against them out of political vendetta by rival political parties, having shown a good effort in handling the COVID-19 crisis”.

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The petitioner said none of these were “cogent reasons”.He said 164 of the 353 candidates who contested the first phase for 71 seats have a “tainted image”. Some of them have criminal cases ranging from murder to rape to kidnapping. He said the RJD tops the list followed by BJP and the other parties. The lawyer said blood relatives of convicted henchmen have contested the elections as the latter’s ‘proxy’.Besides seeking contempt proceedings, the petition has urged the court to direct the Election Commission to take action against the political parties under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order of 1968.

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