Declaration of criminal antecedents must in polls, says Supreme Court

NEW DELHI(PTI):In step forward to eradicate criminalisation of politics, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that if any elected representative suppressed information about the pending criminal cases against him at the time of nomination, it could be a ground to quash the successful candidate’s election.

“While filing the nomination form, if the requisite information relating to criminal antecedents, are not given, indubitably, there is an attempt to suppress, effort to misguide and keep the people in dark. This attempt undeniably and undisputedly is undue influence and, therefore, amounts to corrupt practice,” a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said while dealing with the issue non-disclosure of criminal antecedents amounts to corrupt practice by the candidates.

The bench termed that if a candidate gives all the particulars and despite that he secures the votes that will be “an informed, advised and free exercise of right” by the electorate.

“Disclosure of criminal antecedents of a candidate, especially, pertaining to heinous or serious offence or offences relating to corruption or moral turpitude at the time of filing of nomination paper as mandated by law is a categorical imperative,” the court added.

When there is non-disclosure of the offences, it creates an impediment in the free exercise of electoral right and concealment or suppression of this nature deprives the voters to make an informed and advised choice…,” the court also said.

The court’s ruling came in a 2006 case against Madras High Court’s order nullifying the election of a panchayat member in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore area after finding him guilty of not disclosing pending criminal cases against him at the time of filing his nomination for elections under the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act.

Earlier, the apex court had ruled that elected lawmakers would stand disqualified if convicted by a court and sentenced to two years of imprisonment or more.