Non-disclosure of criminal cases against candidates common in polls
On Thursday, the Supreme Court directed political parties to publicise on their websites, social media platforms and newspapers the details of candidates with criminal background they pick to contest parliamentary and assembly elections, and explain the rationale for choosing them.Updated: Feb 14, 2020 05:23 IST
Of the 1,441 candidates with criminal cases against them and who contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, as many as 534 violated the Supreme Court’s 2018 order to publicise details of the cases, said a person familiar with the details.
The person, from the Election Commission (EC), who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 16 of the winning MPs did not disclose the details they were supposed to. The person did not name the candidates, but listed the parties and the number of MPs:?eight are from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); two from the Trinamool Congress; five from the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), and one from the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
“Of all the candidates who won, 225 had criminal cases and of these 16 candidates did not disclose this mandatory information,” added the person. In the Lok Sabha, the BJP has 303 members, the TMC and YSRCP 22 each, and the LJP six.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court directed political parties to publicise on their websites, social media platforms and newspapers the details of candidates with criminal background they pick to contest parliamentary and assembly elections, and explain the rationale for choosing them.
BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said the directions will enable voters to make a choice keeping “all factors” in mind when they cast their vote.
YSRCP MP Avinash Reddy said, “Everyone must comply with the order, I believe all our party contestants followed the order, because the returning officers filing the nominations had to ensure that these details are taken care of.”
LJP spokesperson Ashraf Ansari said his party will abide by the top court’s ruling. “We will definitely abide by SC order. We have already ensured that such persons are screened beforehand. But at the same time, one should also understand that criminal cases does not mean that a political leader is a criminal.”
Trinamool Congress’s Lok Sabha floor leader, Sudip Bandopadhyay, said: “I have no information about what others have done. Personally, I had some legal problems and I had mentioned them according to the Supreme Court directive.”
In 2018, the Supreme Court instructed candidates as well as political parties to publish information regarding their criminal cases widely in newspapers and TV at least thrice after filing their nomination papers. The decision stemmed from the apex court’s observation that voters have a right to know and also made it mandatory that the information be displayed on the website of all political parties.
This information is also required to be filled in the affidavits that candidates file before the Election Commission.
The Commission, however, could not take action against the MPs and the parties for non-disclosure of information since it does not have the mandate to do so, said a second official of the Commission who asked not to be named.
Perhaps spurred by the response to its 2018 order, the Supreme Court issued Thursday’s order.
The Commission has made several representations to the law ministry that those facing criminal charges, framed by a competent magistrate at least six months before the scheduled date of an election (and which, if proven, entail a minimum punishment of five years) should be disqualified from contesting elections.