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EC to fix dates for declaring candidates' criminal records

New Delhi: In an attempt to keep a check on the criminalisation of elections, the Election Commission of India is all set to make tough rules on declaration of criminal records by candidates. The move in this regard has been taken to tighten the noose on candidates with criminal records in the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections, which is due in October-November.

As per sources, the Election Commission would soon announce detailed guidelines in this regard wherein it would be specified about candidate's advertising schedule and exact timelines for declaration of criminal records.

"All candidates will have to declare their criminal records even if they fail to contest the elections. The proposed guidelines would also focus on providing every detail about the type of crime or offence in which a candidate is implicated," the sources privy to the information said, adding that initiatives have been taken in adherence to Supreme Court Order of February 13. Notably, in March, the poll panel had announced a new self-declaration format C7 for political parties to ensure that they make public details of criminal antecedents of every candidate and explain the reasons for their selection.

As per the existing EC guidelines, every candidate must declare their criminal antecedents three times before an election — in a national daily and two regional language newspapers. Candidates and parties were, however, seen as trying to time the advertisements in such a way that this got the least public attention, defeating its very purpose.

It's been noticed that candidates play it low by publicising the details in the last 2-3 days of the campaign, which does not serve the purpose of generating greater public awareness of candidates.

Notably, poll-bound Bihar, where the C7 format and the new guidelines may also apply, has a record number of candidates with criminal records as in the 2015 state election, 23 per cent of the candidates had serious criminal cases against them.

Party wise, the RJD has the maximum number of candidates with criminal records at 47 per cent, followed by chief minister Nitish Kumar's party JD-U at 41 per cent and 39 per cent of BJP candidates had criminal records while 29 per cent of Congress candidates had serious criminal cases against them.

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