Pointing out a major increase of party candidates with a criminal history, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed political parties to upload on their websites details of pending criminal cases against candidates contesting elections.

Flagging an “alarming rise in the criminalization of politics” in the last four national elections, a bench headed by Justice F Nariman asked the parties over the selection of such candidates and said the information must be uploaded on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and in one local vernacular and one national newspaper.

“Political parties will have to specify reasons for selecting candidates having pending criminal cases against them on their website,” said the court. The Court said the parties must submit a report of compliance to the Election Commission within 72 hours of selecting such candidates, failing which the poll panel must inform the apex court.

“The reason to select candidates should be based on merit and not winnability. Winnability can’t be the only justification,” the top court directed.

If political parties failed to give the details, or the Election Commission was unable to implement the directive, it would be considered contempt of court, the judges said. The verdict comes on contempt petitions filed by lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and others.

The court passed orders on a contempt plea which raised the issue of criminalisation of politics claiming that directions given by the apex court in its September 2018 verdict relating to disclosure of criminal antecedents by candidates are not being followed.