Public Interest Foundation & Ors. Vs.Union of India & Anr. (Decided on Sept, 25 2018)
This is a landmark case in which Supreme Court of India issued guidelines to curb criminalization of politics in India. The petition was filed by a BJP Leader Ashwini Upadhyay and an NGO which is a Public Interest Foundation for seeking directions of Apex Court of India regarding criminalization of politics and restriction on the criminals for contesting elections.
Following are the brief facts of this case:
- That there were many writ petitions filed in this case but the one which was filed in 2011 specifically sought from the Apex Court framing of certain rules and guidelines to deal the criminalization in politics.
- That the main prayer made by petitioner was that the persons against whom charges had been framed in any court of law shall be debarred from contesting elections.
- That earlier three judge bench was hearing the matter but later under art 145(3) it was referred to a Constitutional Bench.
- That the case Manoj Narula v. Union of India was referred before three judges bench with the argument that issue in this case was covered in the referred case but court did not accepted the same.
- That the petitioner argued India being world’s largest democracy should be protected from criminalization of politics in the interest of public at large.
- It was also argued that law breakers should not be allowed to become law makers. Law commission also opined the same.
- It was the argument of petitioner that people with criminal background have brought the status of politics at low level. They have dominated the field of politics. It could be seen in various reports prepared by different committees.
- Petitioner argued that right to contest election is not a fundamental but a statutory right it should be exercised in accordance with the constitutional principles.
- That the Petitioner argued Supreme Court is protector and preserver of the constitution thus there is a duty of the court to protect the constitutional objects. Democracy is one of them. Court must play its role to show path for good governance and fair politics.
- That the contentions of petitioner were opposed by the respondents stating that court cannot go outside their limits. They can issue directions to parliament but cannot make any law.
- It was contended by the respondent that principle of separation of powers is followed in India. If court makes any law pertaining to the issue it would be the violation of the principle of separation of powers.
- It was also argued by respondent that presumption of innocence is followed in India. Until the charges are proved beyond reasonable doubt in the court of law person cannot be the subject of punishment.
- The contention was made by respondent that provisions for disqualification of Members of Parliament already contained in Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- It was argued by respondent that Article 142 of the Constitution of India does not give power to add words to in a law already made which are not there. It does not confer the power upon this Court to make law.
- Court considered the issue that whether any disqualification for membership of parliament can be laid down by the Court beyond Article 102(a) to (d) and the law made by the Parliament under Article 102(e).
Judgment and Decision-
- Constitutional bench of Supreme Court of India considered the principle of separation of power and declined to make any law regarding disqualification of persons against whom criminal charges had been framed.
- Court observed that it cannot issue the writ of mandamus to election commission regarding extension of disqualification on the ground of this criminal proceeding. Any direction by Court to the commission may take the color of law. It is not the power of court to make such kind of law.
- Court also said that what cannot be done directly should also not be done indirectly. The court does not have power to make any such law of disqualification for those who are going to contest elections.
The Supreme Court issued the following directions-
- That every person who wants to contest election will be required to fill the form provided by the election commission of India.
- That such person will have to put all the necessary information required to be rendered by Commission. They cannot escape from the procedure which is mandatory.
- That such person will have to mention in bold letters about the criminal matters going against him in any court of law.
- That the person, who is going to contest election on the ticket given by any political party, will be bound to inform about the cases pending against such person.
- In the above situation such political party is under obligation to put all the information on their website related to such person along with the information of cases against him.
- That such person and concerned political party shall issue a declaration pertaining to the information of cases against the candidate. This should be done by giving wide publicity through print and electronic media in the locality as well as on a large level.
- That such procedure of declaration and giving wide publicity should be done at least three times after filing of the nomination.
- Such above mentioned directions were given by Supreme Court to make the public aware about the criminal background of the candidates so that public can be more vigilant at the time of electing them as their representative.
- Apex court also held that now the time has come that parliament must take measures by making law to curb the criminalization in politics.