The Delhi High Court, on Tuesday, refused to entertain a PIL seeking directions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to frame guidelines for advertising criminal antecedents of candidates in the election campaign in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment in Public Interest Foundation v. Union Of India.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice VK Rao opined that the petitioner, BJP leader and Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, should approach the Supreme Court if he feels that the elections were being held in violation of the verdict.
The PIL had submitted that the ECI had not taken any effective steps for implementation of the directions issued by the Constitutional Bench that candidates should disclose their criminal antecedents in the election affidavit. The judgment had ordered that details of criminal cases be stated in bold letters in the election affidavit, and also be uploaded on the official website of the party to which the candidate belongs.
Additionally, the PIL had asserted that mere disclosure in the affidavit will not serve the purpose, explaining, “At the present, Section 33-A merely mandates that the returning officer merely affix the affidavit with the candidate’s details “at a conspicuous place at his office”. In constituencies where millions of voters are involved, this is no longer a feasible option. It is imperative that this information is displayed widely, and onus must be on candidate seeking high Constitutional office to make a clean breast of things.
The vacuum that therefore exists is in how the information of the candidate placed in his Section 33-A affidavit is actually communicated to the electorate.”
He had therefore sought disclosure of criminal antecedents in campaign materials such as banners, boards, etc. He had contended that it cannot be presumed that electorate in India is deliberately choosing suspected criminals as their legal representatives and that it could only be that true information of their backgrounds was not being made known to the public.
He had therefore put forth the following suggestions:
- All advertisements for the candidacy of an individual to the Parliament, Legislative Assembly and Local Body Election shall compulsorily and prominently carry details of-
- Age and Educational Qualification of the Candidates;
- Criminal cases against him in which charge-sheet has been filed and charges have been framed with description of every offence in Bold Letters [viz. FIR u/s 302 for killing two children and u/s 376 IPC for raping one minor girls]; and,
- the combined value of fixed and movable assets of the candidate and his family members/blood relatives;
- Above details shall cover not less than 33% (20% if no case) of the space of the every Banner, Poster, Hoarding, Video or other graphics, and 33% of the time of each Audio recording.
- If the above are not adhered to, the Returning Officer shall reject the nomination of the candidate. In any event, such non-disclosure would amount to undue influence and the election would be liable to set aside.
- The above conditions shall be incorporated into Model Code of Conduct and Existing Election Orders and Instructions of the Election Commission up to the day of polling.
- The political party shall also publish the above information of its candidates at least thrice in leading Hindi & English News Channels between 5-9pm and thrice in widely circulated Hindi & English Newspapers before polling. [ECI will provide the list of News Channels & Newspapers based on TRP & Circulation].
- The political party shall publish the aforesaid information on the Home Page of its Website immediately after nomination of Candidate till 5pm on the date of Polling. The Font shall be Bookman Old Style, Font Size – 20 and Line Spacing – 02.