In the Upcoming state assembly elections in the state of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Chattisgarh and Telangana the Election Commission of India will implement the Supreme Court order to publicize the criminal records of candidates contesting the election. The EC is likely to issue a notification in all the states as per SC guidelines.
The candidates are required to ‘inform’ the public about his or her criminal record through a source of media such as newspaper or News channels at least three times after filing the nomination papers. The political parties have been told to ensure that each candidate must declare his or her criminal activities in ‘bold letters’ in the forms detailed by the Election Commission.
In a report by ET, it mentioned that even though there is a format by which candidates declare their criminal records, assets and liabilities which are available online, a new format has been rolled out in which it will be ensured that the information is not camouflaged by positive publicity in any way.
However, the process is not as easy-breezy as it seems. First EC will have to look into the issues before introducing it in the state polls. One of them is the limit of the expenditure by a candidate. Currently the expenditure limit for MLA is 28 lakh and 70 lakh for MPs. The expenditure includes all the advertising and publicity material of print and electronic media. It may get difficult for candidates from cities because the TV and advertising prices are high. Hence, EC may have to consider keeping them out of the expenditure limit. Another issue might be that of whether the candidate will advertise his or her criminal records and the reaction from certain political sections are also not supportive of this decision.
Congress leader and lawyer Abhishek Singh Manuvi called it bizarre. The Economic Times quoted him as saying, “Declaration of antecedents in the form is already part of the law. However, I do not agree with the advertisement part. That is unreal, artificial and divorced from reality. It reflects a rather academic viewpoint. If the actual criminal case per se is not a disqualification and if information about each candidate can be accessed on the EC website after he files his application, it would ‘Kafkaesque’ to expect the candidate through advertisements to ask people not to vote for him or her or to exhibit his own popularity.
However, N Gopalaswami, former Chief Election Commissioner holds a different view. He said that this might prove to be a good decision given the fact that all the measures to check criminalization in politics have failed. He said no actions have been taken by legislators to bring a law to curb this menace in politics. At least the SC wants people to be aware of whom they are choosing as their leaders
With inputs from Economic Times