Addressing the issue of increasing criminalisation of politics, a five-judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, had on 25th September, 2018, given five main directions to the candidates and the political parties distributing tickets to these candidates for contesting elections (Page-97 of the Judgement). They are:
(i) Each contesting candidate shall fill up the form as provided by the Election Commission and the form must contain all the particulars as required therein.
(ii) It shall state, in bold letters, with regard to the criminal cases pending against the candidate.
(iii) If a candidate is contesting an election on the ticket of a particular party, he/she is required to inform the party about the criminal cases pending against him/her.
(iv) The concerned political party shall be obligated to put up on its website the aforesaid information pertaining to candidates having criminal antecedents.
(v) The candidate as well as the concerned political party shall issue a declaration in the widely circulated newspapers in the locality about the antecedents of the candidate and also give wide publicity in the electronic media. When we say wide publicity, we mean that the same shall be done at least thrice after filing of the nomination papers.
After the Judgement of the Apex Court, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had issued a circular to all the Chief Election Officers of the States and Union Territories apart from the President/ General Secretary of all recognised National and State Political Parties on 10th October, 2018. This circular, apart from highlighting the changes made to the format of the affidavits of the contesting candidates, had also directed all candidates with criminal cases against them, either pending or cases of conviction in the past, to publicise this information in newspapers with wide circulation. This direction of the Election Commission was also to all the political parties that set up candidates with criminal cases against them.
Directions to the contesting candidates
The ECI had insisted that a format (Format C-1) be followed …“at least on three different dates from the day following the last date for withdrawal of candidatures and up to two days before the date of poll.” While insisting that the order of the Apex Court be followed in letter and spirit, the ECI had also recommended that “The declaration in newspapers should be published in font size 12 and should be placed suitably in the newspapers…”
The ECI had also directed the contesting candidates to submit copies of the newspapers in which their declarations about criminal cases were published to the District Electoral Officers at the time of filing their election expenditure statements (within 30 days of declaration of results of Assembly Elections).
Contesting candidates are required to “…publish the above declaration on TV channels in the State concerned on at least three different dates…” In order to adhere to the Model Code of Conduct, such declarations should be completed before 48 hours of polling date.
The candidates are also required to declare before the Returning Officers that they have informed their political parties of their criminal antecedents. This declaration has been included in the newly amended format of affidavit (Form-26) for contesting candidates.
Directions to the Political Parties
Similar to the format for declaration of criminal antecedents by contesting candidates, the ECI has also recommended a format (Format C-2) for political parties (recognised and unrecognised) to “… publish declaration giving details in this regard, for wide publicity, on their website as well as in TV channels and newspapers having wide circulation in the State concerned.”
This declaration by political parties is also required to be done at least thrice on three different dates before the date of poll, in the same format and font size recommended for contesting candidates.
Political parties are required to “… submit a report to the Chief Electoral Officer of the State/ UT…” so as to confirm that the direction of the ECI had been followed, along with relevant newspaper cuttings.
The ECI has also stated that “… failure to abide by these directions would be treated as failure/ refusal to carry out a lawful direction of the Commission for the purposes of paragraph -16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation & Allotment) Order, 1968.
This release is being circulated by ADR for larger public interest and wider voter awareness. We appeal to the print, electronic and online media to monitor and highlight the fact whether the above mentioned directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the ECI are being followed and implemented by the Political Parties and their candidates.