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Election Commission to draft norms on cleaning up politics

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Election Commission (EC) to draft a framework to stop criminalisation of politics in national interest, as the poll panel said the apex court’s directions in 2018 to candidates to declare their criminal antecedents in the media had not made much impact.

A bench of justices R F Nariman and S Ravindra Bhat gave the poll panel a week to draw up the framework and directed BJP leader and petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay and the EC to sit together and come up with suggestions to help curb criminalisation of politics.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the EC, said the poll panel has taken several steps to stop criminalisation of politics. He suggested that political parties should be made accountable for giving tickets to candidates with criminal history.

In September 2018, a five-judge Constitution bench had said that all candidates will have to declare their criminal antecedents to the EC before contesting polls and called for wider publicity through print and electronic media about candidates with criminal background so as help voters make informed decisions.
The court had said measures to weed out criminal elements from politics, if implemented in their true spirit, would strengthen democracy.

In his petition, Upadhyay sought to blame the EC for the lapses. He argued that the poll panel had issued directions to political parties and candidates for publication of criminal antecedents without amending the Election Symbol Order and the Model Code of Conduct, which was why they lacked legal bite.
He also said that the EC neither published a list of leading newspapers-news channels for the purpose nor clarified the timing for declaration of criminal antecedents by candidates. As a result, candidates went about publishing the information in downmarket newspapers and getting them telecast at odd hours.