Supreme Court earlier directed political parties to inform voters why they had picked candidates with criminal cases pending against them.
The Election Commission (EC) recently sent a letter to 150 registered political parties in Bihar directing them to disclose reasons for giving poll tickets to candidates with criminal records. This has led to jitters within political parties in the state.
This comes as the political activity in Patna picks up ahead of the Legislative Assembly election scheduled for October-November. The term of the incumbent Bihar Legislative Assembly ends on November 29.
While this directive was sent in tandem with the Supreme Court’s February ruling, it has returned undelivered from addresses of 20 party headquarters, The New Indian Express has reported. The report adds that the poll body has taken serious note of the matter.
In a key order, the apex court directed in February that political parties must inform voters why they had picked candidates with criminal cases pending against them. Political parties will also have to publish details of criminal records of their candidates in newspapers and on social media platforms within 48 hours.
Earlier, a candidate’s criminal record would only be declared in his or her election affidavit.
SC also pointed out that the "ability to win by a candidate with criminal antecedents" could not be the only justification furnished by the parties.
The election in Bihar would be the first since the top court’s ruling.
The newspaper has quoted Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari as saying that the SC “should clarify what kind of cases should be pending against the candidates and then take a stand.”
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has said that it will abide by the directive.
Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra has said that COVID-19 patients in Bihar would be allowed to vote through postal ballot. Chandra said the Law Ministry had accepted the poll panel’s proposal and a new category of "COVID-19 suspect or affected persons" has been added under Rule 27A of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
Bihar will be the first state in the country that will go to polls since the COVID-19 outbreak. So far, the poll panel has not indicated the election being postponed.To ensure that voters practice social distancing, EC is likely to cap the number of voters at each polling booth to 1,000, instead of 1,600.