EC notice to 104 candidates in Bihar assembly polls for not publicising criminal cases

The Election Commission (EC) has served notices to 104 candidates of different parties in the Bihar assembly election for not mandatorily publicising pending criminal cases against them.

With a large number of candidates with criminal antecedents again in the fray, compliance with the EC’s guidelines in the light of the Supreme Court order to rein in such a trend remains elusive.

The EC directive had sought greater accountability from political parties to check the problem of criminalization of politics. It requires candidates and parties to mandatorily publicise pending criminal cases through advertisements in a local and a national newspaper, besides official social media platforms of the political party, and explain reasons for fielding them.

But compliance to this guideline remains disappointing even though the information is required to be furnished within 48 hours of the selection of candidates and not less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nomination.

In the first phase of the Bihar assembly election, out of 1,066 candidates in the fray, 327 had declared criminal cases. Out of that, 104 candidates did not bring out any advertisement of the cases against them.

According to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), only four political parties – JD-U, Congress, CPI-ML and the RJD – listed the reasons for fielding the candidates with criminal background.

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In the second phase, which goes to polls on November 3, the percentage of such candidates has gone up from 31% to 34%. Of the 1,463 candidates, 502 have reported criminal cases against them, while 389 (27%) have cases of serious nature against them. The third phase is also likely to witness a similar trend.

The parties, which have put the details of candidates facing criminal charges in the public domain, have cited various reasons for their selection such as the candidates’ popularity, social work, educational background, good effort put in for handling Covid-19, political vendetta by rival political parties for implicating them in cases or the cases being very old.

“We have served all those who have not complied with the EC directive show-cause notices for violation of guidelines. They have to send their replies. After that appropriate action will follow. More notices will be issued after assessing the records in the remaining two phases,” said additional chief electoral officer Sanjay Singh.

According to the guidelines, the EC shall bring such non-compliance by the political party concerned to the notice of the Supreme Court as being in contempt of the court.

During the Lok Sabha election also, a similar trend was witnessed. A recent analysis by ADR and Bihar Election Watch (BEW) says that since 2005, out of 10785 candidates who contested either Lok Sabha or state Assembly elections in the state, 3,230 (30%) declared criminal cases against themselves., while 2204 (20%) declared serious criminal cases against themselves. Such candidates are spread across all parties as well as independents.

Out of 820 MPs/MLAs analyzed since 2005, 469 (57%) have declared criminal cases against themselves and 295 (36%) have serious criminal cases. The study also shows a financial link of tainted candidates with their assets going up.

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