EC gets tough on parties fielding candidates with criminal record

Political parties fielding candidates facing criminal cases in the upcoming state poll battles will have to publish full details on their official social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter ,apart from vernacular newspaper and one national newspaper.

As per the rules, both the candidates as well as the political parties have to publish complete details about the criminal antecedents. These details should be published on three occasions during the campaign period in such a way so that electors have sufficient time to know about the background of such candidates.

While candidates with criminal antecedents in polls are not unusual, it is mandatory for political parties to upload on their website detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases. The details include the nature of the offences, and relevant particulars such as whether charges have been framed, the concerned court, the case number etc.

Moreover, political parties also have to furnish the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates. The reasons as to selection shall be with reference to the qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere “winnability” at the polls, said a senior EC official.

As per the guidelines, these details shall be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate and not prior to two weeks before the first date of filing of nominations. The political party concerned shall then submit a report of compliance with these directions with the Election Commission within 72 hours of the selection of the said candidate. If a political party fails to submit such a compliance report with the Election Commission, the poll panel shall bring such non-compliance by the political party concerned to the notice of the Supreme Court as being in contempt of the court’s orders/directions.

The Supreme Court issued some additional directions through a judgment dated August 10, 2021, which has been further circulated by the Election Commission. As per the directions, “Political parties are to publish information regarding criminal antecedents of candidates on the homepage of their websites, thus making it easier for the voter to get to the information that has to be supplied. It will also become necessary now to have on the homepage a caption which says ‘candidates with criminal antecedents’.”

The directions also said: “We clarify that the direction in paragraph 4.4 of our Order dated 13.02.2020 be modified and it is clarified that the details which are required to be published, shall be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate and not prior to two weeks before the first date of filing of nominations.”

“We reiterate that if such a political party fails to submit such compliance report with the EC, the EC shall bring such noncompliance by the political party to the notice of this Court as being in contempt of this court’s orders/directions, which shall in future be viewed very seriously,” it added.

According to a recent report by poll rights body ADR, out of 412 candidates analysed in this year’s Himachal Pradesh polls, 94 (23 per cent) candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves, while 50 (12 per cent) have declared serious criminal cases against themselves this year.

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