‘Winnability’ Alone Not Enough, Political Parties Must Explain Why Candidates With Criminal Records Selected: ECI

Following the Supreme Court's directions in February last year, Election Commission had in March asked political parties to justify why they chose candidates with criminal history to contest elections.

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Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra (Photo:ANI)

New Delhi: In a step towards decriminalising politics the Election Commission of India has directed every political parties to mandatorily give the reasons for selecting candidates with a criminal record. Announcing stringent measures to tackle the menace of candidates with criminal records contesting elections, Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra on January 8, 2022, mentioned that merely “winnability” will not be considered a sufficient reason.

Every political party and candidate facing criminal cases or records will have to mandatorily declare the same. “Candidates with criminal antecedents are required to publish information in this regard in newspapers and through Television channels on three occasions during the campaign period. A political party that sets up Page 22 of 47 candidates with criminal antecedents is also required to publish information about criminal background of its candidates, both on its website and also in newspapers and Television channels on three occasions,” the Election Commission press release stated.

“..it is mandatory for political parties (at the Central and State election level) to upload on their website detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases (including the nature of the offences, and relevant particulars such as whether charges have been framed, the concerned Court, Page 23 of 47 the case number etc.) who have been selected as candidates, along with 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,” the release added.

All the details about candidates with criminal records shall be published within 48 hours of hir or her selection and not prior to two weeks before the first date of filing of nominations. The political party which is putting up a candidate with crimonal record shall then submit a report of compliance with all the directions with the Election Commission within 72 hours of the selection of the said candidate.

The EC Has Issued Following Directions For The Political Parties:

a)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 “candidates with criminal antecedents”

(b)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

(c) We reiterate that if such a political party fails to submit such compliance report with the ECI, the ECI 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.

The measure are keeping in view the directions issued by the Supreme Court of India in 2018 to give wide publicity to the criminal antecedents of candidates contesting elections. The top court in its judgment delivered on September 25, 2018, had suggested enactment of a strong law to decriminalise politics.

The Supreme Court made it mandatory for all political parties to put up the details on their websites and also publish them in two newspapers. The compliance report will have to be submitted to the Election Commission of India within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate.

The court had also issued directions to contesting candidates to disclose details of pending criminal cases against him/her in the form provided by the EC. It had also ordered political parties to publicise on their websites and in print and electronic media about the criminal antecedents of its candidates.

The ECI has created a dedicated mobile application containing information published by candidates regarding their criminal antecedents, so that at one stroke, each voter gets such information on his/her mobile phone.

The ECI directes to carry out an extensive awareness campaign to make every
voter aware about his right to know and the availability of information regarding
criminal antecedents of all contesting candidates. This is done across various
platforms, including social media, websites, TV ads, prime time debates, pamphlets, etc. A fund is created for this purpose within a period of 4 weeks into which fines for
contempt of Court may be directed to be paid.

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