Top court puts onus on Indian Parliament to ban criminals from contesting elections

India’s Supreme Court said it is up to Parliament, above, to urgently enact a law to ban people with serious criminal background from contesting elections.

A five-judge bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra made the ruling on Tuesday after hearing a bunch of petitions filed by NGO Public Interest Foundation and a BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking its intervention to decriminalise politics.

The court can only declare a law. It is up to Parliament to make it and save democracy by keeping politicians with criminal background at bay, the judges said.

Under the existing law, tainted politicians are banned from contesting elections only for six years. Nothing can stop convicted politicians from heading political parties, the bench said.

Some 1,700 members of parliament and state assemblies or roughly over a third of all elected representatives in India face criminal charges.

The judges issued some directives to arrest the rot.

Candidates must give details of criminal cases pending against them in their election affidavit and share it with their respective political parties which must upload them on their websites. This information has to be published in a widely circulated newspaper at least three times after candidates file their nomination papers.

These measures will give the Indian voter a clear picture of the candidates and help him decide who he should vote for change.

Upadhyay, one of the petitioners, called it a landmark ruling. Parliament, the temple of democracy, should have no room for lawmakers who break law. The federal government should enact a law to decriminalise politics, he said.

The ruling described criminalisation of politics and corruption as a national and economic terror.

Many Indians are impressed by such strong words coming the top court. But they are also wondering whether Parliament has the will to act.

It is a great opportunity for the Modi-led government to stop corruption and criminalisation in Indian politics.