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Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India:Case Synopsis
Nilanjana Ganguly 22 Jun 2020

Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India:Case Synopsis

Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India:Case Synopsis


INTRODUCTION:

It is a landmark case in which the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India has issued guidelines and directions to curtail the criminalization of politics in India. The petition was filed by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay and the NGO Public Interest Foundation. The petition was filed to seek guidance from the Apex Court of India about the criminalization of politics and limitations on the criminalization of contesting elections.



FACTS:

There have been many writ petitions filed in this case, but the most important one is the one filed in 2011 to seek direction from the Apex Court of India regarding the criminalization of politics and restrictions on the criminalization of contesting elections. In its landmark judgment of 25 September 2018, the Five-Judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court held that candidates contesting the election could not be disqualified simply because they were charged in a criminal case.


ISSUES:

Whether the court can lay down any disqualification for membership of Parliament beyond Article 102(a) to (d) and Parliament's legislation under Article 102(e)?


ARGUMENTS:

The petitioners proposed that the court should order the Election Commission to prohibit political parties from issuing tickets or accepting support from independent candidates with criminal records. Referring to the 1968 Election Symbols (Reservation and Allocation) Order, it was also claimed that the assigning of an election symbol to a recognised political party should be cancelled if it is found to be in violation of the EC 's mandate.

It was also argued that the person who breaks law should not be allowed to become lawmakers, since the right to contest elections is not a fundamental right. 

The Respondents, on the other hand, argued that the principle of separation of powers is being followed in India and that the Court did not have the power to make laws.

This was also argued that Art. 142 of the Constitution of India (COI)does not grant the Court the power to add terms to existing legislation.


JUDGEMENT:

The Five - Judge of the Constitution Bench ruled that candidates should not be excluded solely because they were convicted in a criminal case. The bench also advised the legislature to consider changing the legislation to facilitate the decriminalization of politics. The Court further held that candidate must fill out the form as given by the Election Commission and the form must contain all the information as needed. The form must state in bold letters, in recognition of the criminal proceedings pending against the nominee. When a candidate seeks an election on the ticket of a specific party, he / she is expected to notify the party of the criminal proceedings pending against him / her. The political party concerned shall be obligated to make available on its website the details referred to above concerning candidates with a criminal record. Both the candidate and the political party concerned shall make a declaration in the widely circulated local newspapers about the candidate's history and shall also make a large publicity in the electronic media.


CRITICAL ANALYSIS:

The Supreme Court limited itself to mandating all candidates contesting the election to be accountable to their respective parties and to the general public for any criminal cases pending against them. The court took the view that the problem was one of the information gaps for the voters. It's either naive or a witty dream. While Supreme Court had already ordered the release of criminal records in 2003, the proportion of parliamentarians facing serious criminal charges and criminal charges grew steadily from 24% and 12% in 2004 to 30% and 15% in 2009 and 34% and 21% in 2014, respectively. Indeed, a candidate facing a criminal case was three times as likely to win the elections as one without them.


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