New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered political parties to publish the entire criminal history of the candidates they were fielding for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The mandate also seeks an explanation as to why these individuals were chosen as candidates despite their criminal record. The judgment is applicable to parties both at Central and State levels.

According to sources, a 2-member Bench on Thursday told political parties to submit compliance reports with the Election Commission of India within 72 hours or risk contempt of court action. The information should be published in local and national newspapers, as well as the parties’ social media handles. If they fail to publish the information within 48 hours of announcing the candidate, the party has to do so two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations.

The verdict came in a contempt petition filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay about the general disregard shown by political parties to a 2018 Constitution Bench judgment (Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India) to publish the criminal details of their candidates. 
“Over the last four general elections, there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics. In 2004, 24% of the MPs had criminal cases pending against them; in 2009, that went up to 30%; in 2014 it was 34%, and by 2019 it has become 43% of MPs”, Justice Nariman wrote.

The party should show how the “qualifications or achievements or merit” of a candidate, charged with a crime, impressed it enough to cast aside the smear of his criminal background - it cannot profess  “mere winnability at the polls” as a reason.

The published details should also contain the nature of the crimes accused of a candidate and the court where the case is being heard, said the Bench in a verdict that points to the court's dismay in the steep rise in the number of politicians accused of criminal activities.