ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA MANDATES DISCLOSURE OF CRIMINAL ANTECEDENTS OF CANDIDATES

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The Election Commission of India (ECI) has recently issued the Schedule of Elections 2019 on 10.03.2019. The said Schedule contains instructions and model code of conduct for political parties and candidates contesting in the Elections 2019, guide for voters, information for polling parties, etc.

One of the instructions to the political parties and the candidates contesting in the Elections 2019 is that all the candidates have to file a Form 26 Affidavit along with their nomination papers. This Affidavit would contain certain information including:

The criminal antecedents of the candidate, if any,

The movable and immovable assets, and investments in India and abroad, of the candidate, and his/her spouse and dependents,

The liabilities of the candidate, and his/her spouse and dependents,

The candidate’s educational qualifications, etc.

The Supreme Court in Lok Prahari Vs. Union of India 2018 made the following observations and held that:

A voter speaks out or expresses his/her opinion by way of casting a vote and such speech is a part of the Fundamental Right under Article 19 (1) (a) of Constitution of India. Thus, to enable the voter to exercise his/her Fundamental Right effectively, he/she is entitled to all relevant information about candidates at an election.

Thus, such relevant information would include:

A candidate’s criminal antecedents (if any)

A candidate’s assets and liabilities

A candidate’s educational qualifications

Further, Section 33A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 as amended thereof (the Act) has provided that a candidate at an election has to disclose certain information about whether he/she is:

Accused of any offence punishable with imprisonment for a period of 2 years or more in a pending case in which a charge has been framed by a court of competent jurisdiction;

Convicted of certain offences, other those under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 as amended thereof, the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 as amended thereof, etc, and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 1 year or more.

In view of the aforesaid Judgment passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Lok Prahari case (supra), the ECI has incorporated the following instructions in the said Schedule:

The candidates with criminal antecedents are required to publish information about their criminal antecedents in newspapers and in television channels on three occasions during the campaign period.

Further, any political party that sets up candidates with criminal antecedents is also required to publish information about the criminal background of its candidates in their website, in newspapers and in television channels on three occasions.

Thus, this may enable a voter to cast a vote in favour of a worthy candidate at election in India based on proper rationale and reasoning.

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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