Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Candidates not complying with EC directive to declare criminal cases through ads
Candidates facing any kind of criminal charges are required to make declarations through advertisements in prominent newspapers thrice at their own cost, but so far this new provision of the Election Commission (EC) has not evoked desired response from Lok Sabha candidates in Bihar, even though only two days are left for the first phase of polling.
In Bihar, 44 candidates are in the fray for four Lok Sabha seats of Aurangabad, Nawada, Jamui and Gaya, which go to polls in the first phase on April 11. Many candidates, including those from leading political parties, have criminal cases filed against them, while some have cases of serious nature.
According to Bihar Election Watch and Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), 28 of the 40 MPs from Bihar have criminal cases filed against them, while 20 of them face serious cases. Similarly, it says that 141 members in the 243-member Bihar assembly also face criminal cases. “This time, 14 of the 42 candidates we analysed have criminal cases,” he added.
In view of this trend, Supreme Court had last year in a judgment asked for great accountability from political parties to check the problem of criminalisation of politics.
It had suggested that candidates and parties publicise pending criminal cases so that it could come in the public domain and help voters make informed choice.
As per the EC provision, candidates facing even one criminal case of any nature are required to make declarations through advertisements at least thrice. It is also obligatory for the political parties to do the same thrice about candidates with criminal antecedents contesting on their symbol at their own cost.
“We are not seeing this provision being followed, and this is certainly a matter of concern. As there is no provision of serving notice midway through the process, we are not doing it. But this is a rule all are supposed to follow and we are keeping tabs on compliance,” said a senior EC official in Patna, adding as per the new provision, mere mentioning criminal cases in the affidavit while filing their nominations would not suffice this time.
Rajiv Kumar of Election Watch said that the provision was either being completely ignored or the EC was being hoodwinked by giving ads in non-descript newspapers, which have no visibility, but still flaunt high ‘managed’ circulation. “We carried out an impact assessment study during the Chattisgarh assembly election last year and discovered that the new provision had no impact,” he added.
Kumar said even if the ads were published, locating them was akin to finding a needle in the haystack. “If at all ads were published, smallest font and point sizes made them undetectable. The objective of the provision to bring criminal cases in the public domain, but if that does not happen, the entire purpose gets defeated. In some constituencies, bahubalis have fielded their wives and are calling the shots from behind. On TV also, such ads, if at all they come, are slotted at such odd hours that nobody could see,” he added.
Additional chief electoral office (CEO) Sanjay Kumar Singh said that everything has been clearly laid down in the EC provisions. “All candidates and parties are supposed to follow it,” he added.
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