How convicts hold party posts, pick candidates?

India’s apex court has said convicted people becoming office-bearers of a political party and selecting candidates for elections goes against the spirit of one of its judgments to ensure the “purity” of elections.

“How can a convicted person be an office-bearer of a political party and select candidates to contest elections? This goes against our judgements that corruption in politics is to be ostracised for the purity of elections,” a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud said on Monday.

The bench was hearing a public interest litigation petition seeking to restrain convicts from forming and holding posts in political parties for the period they are disqualified under the election law.

The bench said the “pure question of law” was that following the conviction, a politician is barred from electoral politics, and being an office bearer of a party, he can contest polls through agents.

“So, is it that what you cannot do individually, you can do collectively through some of your agents?” the bench said.

The top court said there was no problem if convicted people open a school and do some philanthropic activities, but the issue was whether such persons can contest polls through others by forming a political party. The bench said it was a “huge blow to the purity of the electoral process”.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, said she would be filing the response to the petition and sought two weeks time, which was allowed.

The petition was filed by lawyer and BJP leader Ashwini K Upadhyay.

The top court on December 1 last year had sought responses from the Indian government and the Election Commission on the petition and agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the law which deals with the power of the EC to register a political party.

The petition named several top political leaders who have been convicted or have charges framed against them and are holding top political posts and “wielding political power”.