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Letter to EC complains poll candidates publishing uncomfortable details in low circulation dailies, unknown TV channels

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New Delhi: Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay has written to the Chief Election Commissioner, complaining that many poll candidates often publish statutory information, such as their age, education, criminal cases, and a combined value of fixed and movable assets of the candidate and his family members/blood relatives in low circulation newspapers and on unpopular television channels. He says that they should publish these details in leading news channels, newspapers and the party’s website.

Upadhyay has asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to issue directions as per the Supreme Court judgment of September 25, 2018. In that order the top court had directed the ECI to take appropriate steps to secure the fundamental rights of voters (right to know the candidate) guaranteed under the Article 19).

The letter stated:

“…the ECI had issued direction to political parties and candidates for publication of criminal antecedents without amending the Election Symbol Order and Model Code of Conduct so the direction has no legal sanction. The ECI has not empowered respective District Magistrates (District Election Officers) to publish the list on widely circulated newspapers and on leading News Channels in the spirit of the above judgment. That’s why candidates published criminal antecedents in unpopular newspapers and unknown news channels.”

Upadhyay further added that the ECI has not clarified the timing of publication, so candidates published criminal antecedents at very odd hours when people don’t watch news channels. Similarly, candidate published criminal history in very small font size, which can’t be read easily. Political parties had neither published candidate’s details on the website nor in newspapers and news channels in the spirit of the above judgment, but ECI did nothing against them.

The letter has asked the ECI, to pass the following direction:

  • a)      All advertisements for the candidacy of an individual to the Election shall compulsorily and prominently carry details of- 
    1. Age and Educational Qualification of the Candidate; 
    2. Criminal cases against him in which charges have been framed with the description of every offense in Bold Letters viz. FIR under Section 302, IPC, for killing two children, FIR under Section 376, IPC, for raping one minor girl;
    3. The combined value of fixed and movable assets of the candidate and his family members/blood relatives;

b)     Every candidate shall publish the above details in bold letters at least thrice in leading News Channels between 5-9 pm, thrice in widely circulated Newspapers in the spirit of the Judgment. [List of the News Channels and Newspapers will be provided by the respective DM, based on the latest TRP and Circulation].

c)      The political party shall publish the aforesaid information on the Home Page of its Website within 24 Hours of the nomination of the Candidate and keep it till the date of polling. [Font Bookman Old Style, Font Size- 14, Line Spacing – 2].

d)     The political party shall also publish the above details at least thrice in leading News Channels between 5-9 pm and thrice in widely circulated Newspapers within 7 days of his nomination. [List of News Channels and Newspapers will be provided by the respective DM, based on the latest TRP and Circulation].

e)      If the above guidelines are not adhered, the Returning Officer shall reject the nomination of the candidate and in any event, such non-disclosure would amount to undue influence and the election would be liable to be set aside. 

f)       The above conditions shall be incorporated in the Election Symbol Order, Model Code of Conduct, and Instructions of the ECI for effective compliance.

g)     The respective DM should publish the above details constituency-wise thrice in Electronic Media and thrice in Print Media.

h)     Any violation of the above directions would invite opposite action by the ECI against the concerned political party.

– India Legal Bureau

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