Madhya Pradesh Election 2018: Candidates list their own criminal records, with little help from RTI
During elections, journalists, activists, and even ordinary people sometimes use the right to information (RTI) route to unearth information about the candidates. Sometimes, the candidates themselves use it to dig out things about their opponents. This year, though, in the run-up to the elections in Madhya Pradesh, candidates are using it to find information about themselves.
Candidates from several political parties have filed RTI applications at the district superintendent of police’s office, seeking details of their own criminal records to save themselves from any action in future.
A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ordered on September 25 that all contesting candidates should publicise their criminal records in widely circulated newspaper and electronic media at least thrice to inform voters on just who they are voting for. Inadequate or incorrect disclosure may attract a challenge in a court of law, if the candidate wins the election.
The state elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Mizoram and Chhattisgarh are the first after the Supreme Court ruling and because candidates don’t want to provide incomplete or wrong information, they have approached the superintendent of police of their districts for details of all criminal cases against them. The police department’s response in most cases: file an RTI.
“Candidates were trying to get the information about the pending cases against them informally. It is hard for every superintendent of police to know about the cases and if we give wrong information then the candidate can put the onus on the police. Hence, we have asked them to get the information through RTI,” said Rewa zone’s inspector general of police, Umesh Joga, adding that his department has received at least 100 RTI applications so far.
Inspector general of police, Bhopal zone, Jaydeep Prasad added: “Many candidates filed RTIs asking for their criminal records and we have replied accordingly.”
The candidates themselves admitted that they wanted to take no chances.
BJP sitting MLA and candidate from Bhopal central, Surendra Nath Singh, said: “I filed an RTI to know the status of the case as the matter is pending before the court.” In his election affidavit, he referred to the details of his criminal record provided by the DIG’s office through the RTI.
The Congress candidate from Semaria constituency, Rewa district, Abhay Kumar Mishra, added: “I am aware of the criminal cases registered against me, but wanted to check the exact sections of Indian Penal Code in the FIR. That is why I filed an RTI.”
The Election Commission of India (ECI) won’t be cross checking the declaration of the candidates, an electoral officer said.
Chief electoral officer, (CEO), Madhya Pradesh, VL Kantharao said: “The candidates will publish the records on their own. We will not monitor it. Action is possible only if someone complains that a particular candidate is defying the apex court’s order.”