The Times of India

MUMBAI: One out of every six candidates contesting the Lok Sabha elections from the Mumbai-Thane region is facing 'criminal cases' and one out of eight stands accused of 'serious crimes', according to an analysis of election affidavits.

The report was prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the Maharashtra Election Watch (MEW) after they studied the election affidavits of 140 candidates. Twenty-three contenders (or 16% of the total) declared police cases against them that were called 'criminal cases' and 18 candidates (or 13%) declared cases that were classified as 'serious criminal cases'.

The MNS and the BJP came across as the worst in the analysis. Of the MNS candidates studied for the report, nearly 70% have 'criminal cases' pending against them. The same number goes for the BJP.

The report said the 'serious criminal cases' category constitutes offences that involved 'moral turpitude' and satisfied any of several conditions, including being punishable with a maximum of five years' jail term. Plain 'criminal cases', on the other hand, also include offences that are at times notched up during protests and clashes, such as unlawful assembly, obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions, disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant.

According to the report, BJP's Gopal Shetty has five 'serious' charges under IPC against him, including in a cheating case. Actor Rakhi Sawant, who is contesting from the Mumbai North-West constituency, has declared in her affidavit a charge related to cheating and dishonesty concerning "delivery of property".

Shetty said all cases against him were related to political agitations that he participated in in public interest. "In future too I will agitate for public causes," said Shetty. Sawant said cases were filed against her to harass her: "The charge is not of murder or rape. It is an ordinary case. I had nothing to do with that property."

The report said that of the 140 candidates analysed, 56 are crorepatis. BJP's Poonam Mahajan, Congress' Priya Dutt and Samajwadi Party's Farhan Azmi (all contesting from Mumbai North-Central) have declared the highest assets.

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