Following the judgment of the SC in September, the ECI has now issued directions to candidates & political parties on the format to be followed for publication of pending criminal cases in newspapers & TV channels. Here is a look at all the changes.
In a judgment on 25th September 2018, the Supreme Court (SC) refused to debar candidates with pending criminal cases (where charges have been framed) from contesting elections. But in the same judgment, the SC gave certain directions to promote transparency and flow of information about contesting candidates & the pending criminal cases against them. Among other things, the SC gave the following directions.
- The Form 26 filed by contesting candidates shall have details of pending criminal cases against the candidates in BOLD letters.
- If a candidate is contesting an election on the ticket of a particular party, he/she is required to inform the party about the criminal cases pending against him/her.
- The concerned political party has to publish the information pertaining to the candidates of the party with pending criminal cases both in its website and also in newspapers and Television channels.
- The candidate as well as the concerned political party are required to publish information about pending criminal cases in newspapers and through Television channels at least thrice before the election.
Now the Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued specific directions & formats for such disclosure through newspapers and TV channels.
The Candidate has to publish the information at least thrice
The ECI in its instructions has specified a format (C-1) in which the contesting candidate has to publish the details of pending criminal cases against him/her in newspapers with wide circulation. The same format is applicable for publishing in TV channels. The instructions also mention that the font size has to be 12 and that they should be published at least thrice from the day following the last day of withdrawal of nominations and up to 48 hours before the actual polling.
The concerned political party also has to publish this information for all the candidates put by by the party in a format C-2. Similar timelines are applicable for the party as well.
Both the candidates & the political parties are required to submit the compliance reports to the respective officers designated by the ECI. The report has to contain paper clippings of the relevant publication.
In addition to the declaration in newspapers & TV channels, the candidates will now have to disclose the details of pending criminal cases and cases that resulted in conviction , in BOLD letters in the Form 26. They also have to give a declaration that they have informed the party about such cases.
Where should these details be published & who will bear the expenses?
The ECI has recently clarified regarding the choice of newspapers & TV channels where this information has to be published. It also clarified on the question of expenses. The ECI in its clarification has asked the Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) of the various states to get an indicative list of newspapers & TV channels which have wide circulation. These details are to be obtained from the Information & Public Relations departments of states. Such a list would be shared with parties as well as contesting candidates. Candidates with no pending cases are not required to follow these instructions.
The ECI has also clarified the question of expenses. The ECI in its clarification mentioned that since this is an expenditure connected with the elections, the same has to be borne by the candidates & the political parties. It also clarified that this expenditure would also be counted for the purpose of election expenditure of the candidate.
Changes to affidavit format in case of pending Dues & Contracts
Earlier, the candidates contesting Lok Sabha or Assembly elections were required to submit an additional affidavit regarding public dues. Now the ECI has included these details in the same Form 26. The details of dues should include dues for any government accommodation, Income Tax dues, GST dues, Municipal/Property tax dues, and any other dues. In addition, the candidates are required to disclose the sources of income of self, spouse and all dependents. Dependents are now defined as parents, sons, daughters or any other person dependent on the candidate and who has no other means of livelihood.
In addition to the pending dues, the candidate also has to provide details of the contracts with government or any public company in his name or in the name of the spouse/dependents.