PIL in SC for enforcing voters’ right to know criminal antecedents of candidates

PIL in SC for enforcing voters’ right to know criminal antecedents of candidates
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New Delhi: A plea was filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking a direction to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to ensure voters’ fundamental right to know about criminal antecedents and assets of candidates in polls is enforced.
The PIL, which is likely to be listed for hearing in a few days, referred to recent notifications of the poll panel and said they have been issued without either amending the model code of conduct (MCC) or the Election Symbol Order and hence, they lacked legal sanction to force candidates to disclose their personal details.
Recently, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had held that all candidates will have to declare their criminal antecedents to the poll panel before contesting an election.
It had also asked the legislature to consider framing a law to ensure decriminalisation of politics.
The fresh PIL, filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, has sought a direction to the poll panel to ensure right of voters to know “age, qualification, criminal antecedents and assets of candidates”.
It said if the candidates do not advertise their details adequately then their election “be set aside and the nomination of the candidate would stand rejected”.
The plea, filed through advocate R D Upadhyay, also sought the candidates to disclose their details on a minimum space of 33 per cent in case of banner, poster and hoarding advertisements and a minimum of 33 per cent of the running time in case of Audio Video recordings.
“It is imperative that this information is displayed widely, and onus must be on candidate seeking high Constitutional office to make a clean breast of things,” the petition said.
Each candidate and every political party should publish all the details thrice, in leading English, Hindi and vernacular news channels and newspapers, the list of which would be provided by the EC based on their TRP and circulation, it said.
The petition contended that it was the fundamental rights of voters to know about the details of their candidates and this right could not be secured until the candidates publish these information on advertisements.
Under Section 33-A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the returning officer, presently affixes the affidavit containing details of candidates “at a conspicuous place at his office”, it said.
“In constituencies where millions of voters are involved, this is no longer a feasible option,” it said.
The petition mentioned that in the 2014 General election, 17 per cent of the candidates had criminal charges framed against them and eventually the House had 33 per cent of ‘tainted’ individuals, adding that their percentage has risen thrice from 2009 elections.
The plea said that it cannot probably be presumed that the electorates of India are deliberately choosing those who are suspected criminals, to be their legislative representatives.
“It could only be that true information of their backgrounds and the contents of their affidavits have not been made known to the public,” the petition said.