Hindustan Times

The Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday to impose fines on eight political parties for committing contempt of court by flouting the directions in its February 2020 judgment for publication of criminal antecedents of candidates during the Bihar assembly polls last year may turn out to be a decisive step to ensure a cleaner election, according to political observers.

In the new Bihar Legislative Assembly formed after elections late last year, 163 (68%) of the 241 newly elected leaders from all parties had declared criminal cases, says the report of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) & Election Watch, which was released after the results. Two candidates could not be analysed.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal was the party with the highest number tainted but winning candidates ( 73%), followed by BJP (64%), JD-U (47%) and Congress (17%).

The Election Commission (EC) guidelines, issued in the light of the Supreme Court order, required 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. However, the compliance was low and the EC served show cause notices to over 100 such candidates and later issued a general notice for all to comply, failing which it was reported as violation, an EC official had said soon after election.

Former advocate general PK Shahi said the apex court order could lead to compliance of its order and EC guidelines in future. “The court has taken the extreme step of imposing fine because its orders were not being followed. The objective is to let the voters know which candidate is facing what kind of cases prior to election so that they could make an informed choice. Now disclosure will be compulsory,” he said.

“This a welcome step, and should ensure compliance in future. The political parties will have to take it seriously. Compliance to EC guidelines remained 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,” said political analyst Prof NK Choudhary.

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