Just five of the leading parties have sent reports to the Election Commission (EC) explaining why they have chosen candidates facing criminal cases for the first phase of the Bihar polls in line with a Supreme Court ruling in February, people aware of the matter said on Wednesday.

The court on February 13 expressed concerns over an “alarming increase of criminals in politics” and directed parties to explain the reasons why someone with a criminal record has nominated to contest polls. It ruled all political parties must publicise details of candidates with criminal backgrounds within 48 hours of their selection or two weeks prior to the date of nomination on their websites, social media handles, and in newspapers. The court issued the directions to increase public awareness. Political parties are required to send their compliance reports in this regard within 72 hours of the publishing of the material about such candidates.

The people cited above said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janata Dal (United), or JD (U) Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M) have sent their reports to the EC. Other political parties, including the Congress, are expected to send their compliance reports soon.

RJD has so far fielded the highest number of candidates with criminal records, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-governmental organisation, said in a report released on Tuesday. The report said 30 (73%) out of 41 RJD candidates have criminal records. Similarly, 21 (72%) out of 29 BJP candidates, 24 (59%) out of 41 Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) nominees, 12 (57%) out of 21 Congress contestants have criminal cases pending against them. JD(U) has fielded 15 (43%) and BSP eight (31%) candidates with a criminal record, the ADR report citing polls affidavits of the nominees.

The report said the Supreme Court’s ruling in February has had no impact on the selection of candidates. “The directions of the Supreme Court have had no effect on the political parties in the selection of candidates as they have again followed their old practice of giving tickets to around 31% candidates with criminal cases.”

Over 100 recognised and unrecognised state and national parties have fielded their candidates for the three-phase Bihar elections beginning October 28.

According to EC data, 327, or over 30%, of 1,065 candidates fielded for the first phase of polling have criminal cases pending against them. The election watchdog has not provided a party-wise breakup of the candidates with criminal cases pending against them.

One of the persons cited above said the parties have to first publish the details and then send the compliance reports. Most of the parties have argued that “criminal cases are frivolous and will not sustain the scrutiny of the courts”, the person added. “By and large, the justification across the spectrum is similar. They have argued that the cases will not stand the legal test.”

A second person said the parties have also cited the “social work and performance” of candidates as the criteria for selection. “They have maintained the candidates’ performance and their work for the public good is exceptional and hence they have been chosen.”

The Supreme Court, in its February ruling, said mere winnability cannot be cited as a justification for choosing candidates with criminal backgrounds.

ADR co-founder Jagdeep Chhokar said a law needs to be passed barring those who have had charges framed against them from contesting elections. “JD(U) has put the reasons for selection of candidates [with pending criminal cases] on their website, including popularity and likeability...,” Chhokar said. “If I were the EC, I would not accept these reasons. The reports are likely to be a farce,” he said. “If the content is worthwhile, only then will the reports have significance.

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