An audit has found that major political parties contesting the Bihar Assembly elections are openly flouting guidelines issued by the Supreme Court while nominating candidates with criminal antecedents.

The upcoming polls will be the first to be held after the apex court issued guidelines on February, this year, mandating political parties to give reasons for selection of candidates with criminal antecedents and to provide reasons stating why other individuals without such history could not be nominated for the same.

The audit was conducted by independent election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

The political parties were also found to be violating the Election Commission's directives to political parties to publish their candidates’ criminal antecedents in newspapers, social media platforms and on their party’s websites within the stipulated time which was mentioned as "within first four days of withdrawal" of nomination papers.

None of the parties were found to have adhered to all these guidelines. ADR has published party-wise information on candidates with criminal antecedents.

"The directions of the Supreme Court have had no effect on the political parties in selection of candidates as they have again followed their old practice of giving tickets to around 31% candidates with criminal cases. All major parties contesting in the first of elections in Bihar have given tickets to 31 % to 70% candidates who have declared criminal cases," said ADR founding member Jagdeep Chhokar.

The Lalu Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) topped this list with 73% of its candidates in the first phase were found to have criminal records. More than half of RJD's candidates (54%) were charged with crimes of serious nature, such as murder and attempt to murder, which carry a punishment of more than five years.

The RJD was followed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which fielded almost the same proportion of candidates with criminal backgrounds -- 72% -- 45% of whom were found to have cases against them that are of serious nature.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), being led by Chirag Paswan, fielded 59% candidates with criminal backgrounds and 49% of them were charged with crimes of serious nature. It was followed by the Congress with 57% candidates having criminal cases against them, 43% of whom were charged with crimes of serious nature.

The Janata Dal-United (JD-U), headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) were the two other major parties which had 43% and 31% candidates with criminal cases.

The data mined by ADR suggested that " political parties have no interest in reforming the electoral system and our democracy will continue to suffer at the hands of lawbreakers who become lawmakers," Chhokar added.

On February 13, 2020, the Supreme Court had ruled that all political parties must publish the entire criminal history of candidates along with the reasons for fielding them.

“It shall be mandatory for political parties to upload on their website detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases, including the nature of the offences and relevant particulars,” the court had said.

Following the apex court verdict, the EC, in an order passed on September 16, 2020, said “details regarding criminal cases are to be published on three occasions during the campaign period.”

The first round of publicity has to be done “within first 4 days of withdrawal” of nomination papers. The particulars have to be mentioned in bold letters, in at least 12 point font size.

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