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A contempt petition has been filed in the Supreme Court against Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Sunil Arora and Bihar's Chief Electoral Officer, HR Srinivasa and office bearers of various political parties for failure to publish details of pending criminal cases against candidates who contested in the recently concluded Bihar Assembly elections.
The petition by Delhi based lawyer Brajesh Singh has contended that there was non-compliance with the top court's February 2020 verdict in which the court had directed all political parties to upload on their website details of pending criminal cases against candidates contesting polls, noting that there has been an alarming increase in criminalisation of politics.
Besides Arora and Srinivasa, contempt action has been sought against KC Tyagi (General Secretrary of Janta Dal United), Jagdanand Singh (President of Bihar State Rashtriya Janta Dal), Abdul Khalik (Lok Janshakti Party), Randeep Singh Surjewala (General secretary of All India Congress Committee) and BL Santosh, (National General Secretary of BJP).
On February 13, the apex court had said that political parties will have to upload on their respective websites, reasons for selecting candidates with criminal cases pending against them.
The bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman had also directed that political parties should publish these details on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and in one local vernacular and one national newspaper.
That order was passed in a contempt plea which raised the issue of criminalisation of politics claiming that directions given by the apex court in a September 2018 verdict relating to disclosure of criminal antecedents by candidates were not being followed.
The top court in its February 2020 order directed that political parties will have to submit a compliance report in this regard with the Election Commission within 72 hours of selecting candidates having pending criminal cases against them.
It also ordered that the EC shall bring it to the notice of the apex court in case of failure of political parties to comply with its directions.
The contempt plea filed on Saturday states that the CEC had, on March 6, intimated all political parties about the verdict.
He had also introduced a form C7 in which political parties had to publish reason for selection of candidates in addition to all other relevant information in the newspapers, social media and website of the party within 48 hours of the selection of candidate and not less than two weeks before the first date of filing of nominations, whichever fell earlier.
However, the petitioner has submitted that during Bihar elections, most of the political parties advertised the mandatory information in "Rashtriya Sahara Hindi Daily" where as the Supreme Court had mandated publication in widely circulated newspapers.
Singh further states that all the political parties had published similar reasons for putting up candidates with criminal antecedents whereas the top court had specifically directed that relevant particulars as to whether charges have been framed etc should be published.
The petition further states that the political parties did not pay heed to the Supreme Court verdict and ended up giving tickets to around "34% of the candidates with criminal cases."
Singh states that such a contemptuous act will "drastically effect the crores of voters" in forming a sound opinion regarding the candidate they are voting for and thus have a "chilling effect" on healthy democracy as well as "people's right to information."
Besides urging court to initiate contempt proceedings, the plea also seeks a direction to be issued to political parties to give specific reasons for selecting candidates who are blood relatives of convicted henchmen and contested elections as proxy.