The upcoming Lok Sabha polls will be the first general election in Karnataka in which the Election Commission will enforce a Supreme Court directive requiring candidates to repeatedly advertise their criminal antecedents so that voters can make an informed decision.

Candidates will have to make public information on their criminal records in newspapers and television at least three times after they file their nomination, the Supreme Court said while hearing a batch of public interest litigations in September 2018. Accordingly, amendments were made to the Form 26 affidavit that candidates are to submit to the Election Commission.

Candidates at elections to the House of the People, Council of States, Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council who have criminal cases against them - either pending cases or cases in which candidate has been convicted - shall publish a declaration about such cases, for wide publicity, in newspapers with wide circulation in the constituency area. This declaration is to be published... at least on three different dates from the day following the last date for withdrawal of candidatures and up to two days before the date of poll, the Election Commission has stated.

Even political parties fielding candidates with criminal cases are required to publish declarations on their websites as well as in newspapers and on television.

This directive was implemented in the November 2018 by-elections that were held for three Lok Sabha and two Assembly segments in the state, Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar said. While candidates of the main political parties complied, we've sent a report to the Election Commission on candidates who did not follow it in letter and spirit. Non-compliance could amount to contempt of court, he added.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Karnataka had 432 candidates of whom 55 had declared criminal cases. This included six fielded by the Congress, nine from from the BJP, eight from the JD(S) and 14 independents. Nine out of 28 MPs who won had criminal cases - eight of the BJP and one from the Congress, according to analyses by the Association for Democratic Reforms.

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