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ECI gives more clarity on Form No 26 regarding disclosure of criminal antecedents by candidates

Chandigarh, (Gurpreet) In pursuance of directions issued by the Supreme Court, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has amended the Form-26 being part of the nomination form thereby mandating the candidates contesting Parliamentary/Vidhan Sabha elections to provide complete information regarding the pending criminal cases against them or cases in which they have been convicted. Such candidates would be bound to give information in this regard to the general public through print and electronic media. The Election Commission of India has also uploaded a questionnaire with answers on its official website to clear the doubts and queries of candidates regarding Form No 26.

Disclosing this here today, the Chief Electoral Officer Dr S Karuna Raju said that concerned political party shall be obligated to put up on its website information pertaining to candidates having criminal antecedents. He said that it shall be mandatory for political parties (at the central and state election level) to upload on their website detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases (including the nature of the offences, and relevant particulars such as whether charges have been framed, the concerned Court, the case number etc.) who have been selected as candidates, along with the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates. The reasons as to selection shall be with reference to the qualification, achievements and merit of the candidates concerned, and not mere "winnability" at the polls, he added.

CEO further inform that the political party also need to publish information regarding criminal antecedents of the candidates on their official social media platforms, including Facebook & Twitter. He said that these details shall be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate or not less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.

The CEO further pointed out the entire exercise would have to be completed starting from last the last day following the last date of withdrawal i.e February 4, 2022 and up to 48 hours before ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll.

As per the ECI directions, the political party and candidate have published their criminal antecedents for thrice and first advertisement shall be given within first 4 days of withdrawal of nominations, second shall be given between next 5th-8th days, while the third advertisement to be given from 9th day till the last day of campaign (the second day prior to date of poll).

The ECI also informed that the publicity of information regarding criminal past of the candidates would be telecasted on TV Channels from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm in local language or English. The concerned candidates and political parties would furnish the requisite information in the prescribed format i.e. form C-4 and C-5 respectively to the District Election Officers.

In case, any candidate of the political party with criminal past flouts the prescribed guidelines of the Supreme Court in this regard then either an Election Petition could be filed or a case could be registered against him/her on the basis of contempt of the apex court after the election.

The CEO informed that the concerned political party and candidates would have to get this declaration published in the newspapers in a particular region thrice in 12 font size at appropriate place.

He said that advertisements have to be appeared in at least one National Daily Newspaper having circulation beyond 75000 as stated by DAVP/Audit Bureau of Circulation in publicity available records and one Local Vernacular Daily Newspaper published within geographical territory of the State/UT, in the local vernacular language, with a circulation of at least 25000, as stated by DAVP/Audit Bureau of Circulation in publicity available records. The same may be telecasted for at least seven seconds in the prescribed format for TV Channels to ensure the implementation of the directions in letter and spirit, he added.

He also clarified that criminal proceedings under section 123 (4) of Peoples’ Representation Act and under section 51 and 171 (G) of the Indian Penal Code would be initiated in case the candidate furnishes wrong information. Dr Raju further reiterated that such advertisement was to be got published from only those candidates, who were either convicted or having pending criminal cases.

He further informed that candidates with criminal past are required to clearly mention the title of the case with number and status along with the details of the case under item no. 5 of form 26. If the status of the case is changed after filing the nomination papers by the candidates, it will be up to the candidate that whether he wants to apprise concerned Returning Officer or not about the notification in this regard, he added.

He also clarified that those candidates, who have not been either convicted or there is no pending criminal case against them need not to publish such advertisements.

The CEO stated that the expenditure of advertisements in this regard would be incurred by the political Party and the Candidates, which would be added in the election expenses. He also mentioned that Returning Officers could not enquire about the authenticity of claims made by the candidates regarding criminal past for disseminating information being published in newspapers and telecast on TV Channels.

CEO further said that the candidate should publicise their criminal antecedents in C-1 format in newspapers and TV channels similarly political parties should publicise criminal antecedents in C-2 format in newspapers and TV channels apart from this returning officer will issue reminder in this regard to the concerned candidate in format C-3.

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