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The Supreme Court has granted the petitioner liberty to move a similar request before the Election Commission of India

The Supreme Court, on Monday (January 21), dismissed a public interest litigation filed by Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay that had sought a ban on candidates with pending criminal cases from entering the electoral fray.

The apex court bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna dismissed the petition stating that it was “not inclined to hear it” but gave the petitioner liberty to approach the Election Commission of India with his plea.

As per existing provisions in the Representation of the People Act, 1951, only those individuals who are convicted for a crime are barred from contesting polls during the period of their sentence and for six years after. However, mere filing of a criminal complaint or the pendency of the case against a person does not debar him/her from contesting the polls.

The top court has consistently maintained that although it wants a democracy free of criminals becoming elected representatives, it is constrained by the law from summarily disqualifying anyone with a pending criminal case from entering the electoral fray. On earlier occasions too, the court has asked the Parliament to deliberate whether such a ban should indeed be imposed and take necessary legislative steps if it finds merit in the argument.

However, in its efforts to ensure that fewer individuals with pending criminal cases get elected to state assemblies and the Parliament, the apex court had earlier directed the Centre to ensure that fast track courts are set up in every State to expeditiously dispose of cases pending against MLAs and MPs. Little progress has been made on this front though.

—India Legal Bureau

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