EC welcomes SC order on criminal candidates

EC welcomes SC order to publish criminal info of candidates

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora holds a special meeting to review Delhi's poll preparedness at the Election Commission office. (PTI Photo)

The Election Commission has welcomed and swung into action to implement the Supreme Court's order making it mandatory for political parties to publish reasons for selecting people with criminal antecedents as candidates in polls.

The EC is set to modify the formats of the affidavits the candidates at present have to file along with their nomination papers to declare their criminal records. The modification is primarily aimed at distinctly putting on record the heinous cases – like murder, attempt to murder, robbery, rioting and rape, separated pending against the candidates – separated from other criminal cases pending against them.

The EC said that it “whole-heartedly” welcomed the Supreme Court's “landmark order”, which would “go a long way in setting new moral yardsticks for the overall betterment of electoral democracy”.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that it should be mandatory for political parties – both at the central and state election levels – to upload on their websites detailed information regarding records of criminal cases pending against their candidates, including the nature of the offenses and relevant particulars, such as whether charges have been framed, the concerned court and the case number. The apex court also asked the political parties to make it public why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.

The SC ordered that the reasons the political parties would cite for selecting individuals with criminal records as candidates should be with reference to the qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not merely “winnability” in the polls.

The EC had on October 10, 2018, issued detailed instructions and guidelines along with the amended form of affidavit for ensuring the publicity of criminal antecedents by the candidates and the concerned political parties for the information of voters. It is being implemented in all the elections since November 2018.

The commission will now reiterate the instructions with suitable modifications in the formats of the affidavits in order to implement the order of the Supreme Court in a letter as well as in spirit, a spokesperson of the poll-panel said.

The Supreme Court also ordered that the political parties would have to submit a report of compliance of its orders to the EC within 72 hours of the selection of the candidates. If a political party fails to submit such compliance report with the Election Commission, the poll panel would have to bring such non-compliance by the political party concerned “to the notice of the Supreme Court as being in contempt of this court’s orders or directions.”

The SC made it mandatory to publish the information in a local vernacular newspaper and a national newspaper on the official social media platforms of the political party, including Facebook and Twitter. The details should be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate, the apex court ordered.

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