Political Parties Oppose ECI Bid To Ban Candidates With Criminal Cases

Bhubaneswar: The Election Commission of India (ECI’s) recent proposition made before the Supreme Court for not giving ticket to those with criminal antecedents has sparked off a debate whether the move can help keep criminal elements out of politics.

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine a proposal made by the ECI to ask political parties to not give ticket to those with criminal background. The apex court expressed concern that the order passed by it in 2018 to curb criminalisation of politics is not being followed.

The top court on September 25, 2019 had asked that all candidates have to declare the criminal cases pending against them to the Election Commission before contesting elections. The court had said the political party would be obligated to put up this information on its website and the candidate as well as the political party concerned shall issue a declaration and ensure its wider publicity through various mediums of the media.

However, the Election Commission had not issued any guidelines specifying which newspapers and TV channels can declare the criminal cases of candidates.

The data given by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) after analysing the affidavits of Odisha MLAs revealed that 21 per cent of legislators were facing serious criminal cases in 2009 which increased to 28 per cent in 2014 and 34 per cent in 2019.

On the other hand, the entry of candidates with criminal background into politics has also increased which is evident from the criminal records of MLAs in the last three elections. Party-wise, 67 per cent of MLAs belonging to Congress have criminal cases followed by 61 per cent of BJP and 41 of BJD. Even two MLAs had declared criminal cases related to murder while 11 MLAs declared cases related to attempt to murder.

The ADR data further revealed that 33 out of total 112 MLAs of BJD are facing serious criminal cases, 10 from BJP out of 23 MLAs and five from Congress out of nine MLAs. Similarly, at present 33 per cent of ministers in the Odisha cabinet have criminal cases.

ADR member Sahadev Sahu said, “Those who have criminal cases should be banned from contesting election. At present there are guidelines that if a candidate furnishes false affidavit, his/her candidature will be cancelled, so provisions should be made that so that they do not even contest the election.”

However, political parties contended that often candidates are implicated in false cases and so it would be improper to ban them from contesting polls.

Senior Congress leader Panchanan Kanungo said, “Once there was a robbery case against me. It is not legitimate to frame innocent people in false cases.”

BJP leader Balabhadra Majhi said, “In some instances, cases are registered against candidates but they subsequently are exonerated of all charges by the court. So it is not right for the democracy to deprive any candidates from contesting elections on the basis of such cases.”

BJD vice-president Prasanna Acharya too came out in support of the other parties in expressing discontent over the proposal and said, “Opposition leaders often agitate against ruling party members and even criminal cases are filed against them in the process. In this context, we cannot term them criminals.”