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Supreme Court voices over criminalisation of politics

Expressing serious concern over the criminalisation of politics, the Supreme Court on Thursday observed that it has to remind Parliament about the serious situation and it has a constitutional obligation to amend the Constitution to prevent persons facing criminal charges from contesting elections.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by the Chief Justice Dipak Misra made this initial observation during the course of hearing of a batch of petitions filed by Public Interest Foundation and others raising an important question of law, whether a person facing a criminal case in a heinous crime can be disqualified from contesting Assembly or Parlimentary elections at the stage of filing  chargesheet or framing of charges or only after conviction.

The bench which includes Justices Rohinton Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra is examining the question “Whether disqualification for membership can be laid down by the Court beyond Article 102 (a) to (d) in the Constitution and the law made by Parliament under Article 102(e)”.

The CJI told the Attorney General, “We have to remind Parliament about the serious situation. The Parliament has a constitutional obligation to amend Article 102 of the Constitution. We say this as conscious keepers of the Constitution. It (criminalisation of politics) is a national thinking today and this can’t be ignored by the legislature. It is a collective need and cry of the society to inject purity in elections.”

The AG conceded that a stage has come for Parliament to review the situation. He said the judiciary by way of disqualification could add nothing as it is the domain of the Parliament, and Parliament can amend the law. Pointing out the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature, he said judiciary should not resort to judicial legislation. “Your lordships leave it to Parliament and we will do it.”

The CJI, quoting from his own earlier judgment, said, “Corruption is a noun, but when it enters the political arena, it becomes a verb which needs antibiotics of a higher level to be cured.” Justice Chandrachud wondered as to how a politician charged with murder could uphold the Constitution as per his oath of affirmation.

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