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New Delhi, February 14, 2020
The Election Commission of India (ECI) today said it would implement the Supreme Court’s directions on criminal antecedents of candidates by reiterating its existing instructions with suitable modifications.
“The Election Commission of India has consistently espoused rigorous and loftiest normative standards in public life,” it said in an official statement.
The Supreme Court had passed the orders on February 13 in a contempt petition invoking Article 129 and Article 142 of the Constitution of India. The court said, “It shall be 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, 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,” it said.
The court also directed that this information should also be published in one local vernacular newspaper and one national newspaper; and on the official social media platforms of the political party, including Facebook and Twitter.
These details should be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate or not less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.
The political party concerned should then submit a report of compliance with these directions with the Election Commission within 72 hours of the selection of the said candidate.
If a political party fails to submit such compliance report with the Election Commission, the Election Commission should bring such non-compliance by the political party concerned to the notice of the Supreme Court as being in contempt of this Court’s orders/directions.
The Election Commission said it “whole-heartedly welcomes this landmark order, which is bound to go a long way in setting new moral yardsticks for the overall betterment of electoral democracy.”
Earlier, the Commission on October 10, 2018, issued detailed instructions and guidelines along with an amended form of affidavit for ensuring publicity of criminal antecedents by the candidates and the concerned political parties for the information of voters.
This was being implemented in all the elections since November 2018. Now, the Commission proposes to reiterate these instructions with suitable modifications in order to implement the directions of the Supreme Court in letter as well as in spirit, it said.