The Supreme Court on Monday said letting a criminal and corrupt person lead a political party was against the basic tenet of democracy as such a person had the power to choose election candidates, The Hindu reported. The court was hearing a petition filed by lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, arguing that convicted people be barred from forming political parties.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra questioned the logic behind having such a person as the head of a political party. “How can a convicted person be an office-bearer of a political party and select candidates to contest elections?” he asked.

The court said banning convicted people from being office-bearers of political parties would be in agreement with its past judgments where it has criticised corrupt politics. The court gave the Centre two weeks to file an affidavit to explain its stand on the matter, ANI reported.

Responding to Upadhyay’s petition, the Election Commission had said on Saturday in an affidavit that it had actively taken steps to decriminalise politics and has made recommendations to the Centre. It told the Supreme Court it had proposed barring those accused of offences punishable with at least five years in jail from contesting elections after a court frames charges against them. The poll panel said it had also proposed that it be given the power to deregister political parties.

The Election Commission has often said that it supported the idea of preventing convicts from contesting elections for life and barring their entry into the judiciary and legislatures. At present, politicians convicted of crimes that carry a prison term of more than two years cannot contest elections for six years after they leave prison.