A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court seeking to debar persons, against whom charges have been framed in serious offences, from contesting elections.
The PIL, which is likely to come up for hearing in the coming days, sought a direction to the Centre and the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take steps to debar people who are put on trial in cases of serious offences.
It claimed that despite recommendations of the Law Commission and the court's earlier directions, the Centre and the ECI have not taken steps in this regard.
Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay said he was filing the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in view of the fact that out of 539 winners of the Lok Sabha election in 2019, as many as 233 (43%) declared criminal cases against themselves. The plea added that there was an increase of 109 per cent in the number of MPs with declared serious criminal cases since 2009, with one MP declaring 204 criminal cases against himself including cases related to committing culpable homicide, house trespass, robbery, criminal intimidation etc.
"What is alarming is that the percentage of candidates with criminal antecedents and their chances of winning have actually increased rapidly over the years," the petition said.
"Criminals who earlier used to help politicians win elections in the hope of getting favours, appear to have cut out the middle-man in favour of entering politics themselves and political parties in turn have become steadily more reliant on criminals as candidates 'self-finance' their own elections in an era, where election contests have become phenomenally expensive, but also because candidates with criminal antecedents are more likely to win than clean candidates," it alleged.
It further alleged that political parties are competing with each other in a race to the bottom because they cannot afford to leave their competitors free to recruit criminals.
"The injury caused to people is large because criminalization of politics is at extreme level and political parties are still setting-up candidates with serious criminal antecedents. Therefore, voters find it difficult to cast their vote freely and fairly though it is their fundamental right, guaranteed under Article 19," it said.