New Delhi: Around 13 per cent of all candidates in the upcoming Punjab assembly polls who have declared criminal antecedents have been accused of serious offences.
Among candidates who have declared criminal records for the Uttarakhand and Goa assembly polls, such charges have been levelled against 10 per cent and 16 per cent of them respectively, according to affidavits filed by them with the Election Commission of India (ECI), which ThePrint has reviewed.
The documents show murder, attempt to murder, culpable homicide, rape, outraging the modesty of a woman, sexual offences against children, abduction and extortion have been considered as serious charges.
However, the overwhelming majority of candidates with criminal antecedents have less severe charges against them, according to their affidavits.
The documents show that eight candidates with criminal antecedents have charges of corruption and money laundering against them — three in Punjab, one in Uttarakhand and four in Goa.
Of the 19 candidates who have declared cases of causing religious disharmony, defiling places of worship and hurting religious feelings lodged against them, nine each belong to Punjab and Uttarakhand, while one comes from Goa.
All candidates are required to file affidavits before the Election Commission about their criminal antecedents, assets, liabilities and educational qualifications.
Uttarakhand and Goa go to polls on 14 February. Elections in Punjab will be held on 20 February.
Breakdown of serious charges
According to Election Commission records as of Tuesday, of the 1,285 candidates contesting the polls from 117 seats in Punjab, 312 have criminal records. In Uttarakhand, 632 candidates are contesting polls from 70 seats, and 106 have criminal records. And 301 candidates are contesting polls from the 40 seats in Goa, of which 80 have criminal records.
In all, out of 2,207 contesting candidates in the three states, 491 have declared criminal antecedents.
In Punjab, four candidates have declared cases of murder lodged against them — one each from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and one an independent candidate.
Two candidates in the state have declared cases of culpable homicide, 24 have cases of attempted murder, two have declared rape cases, two have cases of abduction, and five have cases of outraging modesty of women against them.
Thus, 12.9 per cent of the 312 candidates with criminal records have serious charges on them.
Other than that, two Punjab candidates have declared cases of committing atrocities on people from the Scheduled Castes, eight have drugs-related cases on them, one has a case of tax evasion, and two have declared cases of illegal mining, according to the affidavits.
In Uttarakhand, there is one candidate each who have faced charges of murder, attempted murder, culpable homicide and rape. The one to have declared the murder case is an independent candidate.
Four candidates have declared cases related to outraging the modesty of a woman, two candidates have cases of extortion lodged against them, and one has declared a case of abetment of suicide.
Thus, 10.4 per cent of the 106 candidates with criminal records in the state have serious charges on them.
In Goa, no candidate has faced a murder or culpable homicide charge, but four have declared cases of attempted murder.
One has declared a case of rape, five have cases of outraging the modesty of a woman lodged against them and three have cases registered under Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
In all, 16.25 per cent of the 80 candidates with criminal records in Goa have serious charges on them.
Cheque bounce, electricity theft, organising bulls
The largest chunk of criminal charges against candidates in all three states — roughly 80-90 per cent, according to state poll officials, which also reflects in the affidavits reviewed by ThePrint — pertain to less severe charges.
They involve cases of unlawful assembly, causing hurt, wrongful restraint, obstructing public servants from discharging their duty, blocking highways, trespassing and violating government orders.
These are charges that are often filed during demonstrations, protests and disputes in which political leaders intervene, said leaders across political parties as well as poll officials.
There are 12 candidates in the three poll-going states who have cases of cheque bounce registered against them under the Negotiable Instruments Act. One Goa candidate was once booked for stopping a train by pulling the chain, while another candidate from the same state was booked for arranging bulls for the purpose of bull fights in villages, the documents said.
Two Punjab candidates have declared cases of electricity theft lodged against them and two have declared charges of unlawful sale of liquor. Two candidates in Punjab and one in Goa are accused in cases related to illegal mining.
And 48 candidates face cases of cheating and forgery — 33 in Punjab, seven in Uttarakhand and eight in Goa, according to the affidavits.
All prominent parties represented
The records showed that all prominent parties that are contesting polls in all or at least one of these states — Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa — have fielded candidates with criminal records involving some kind of serious charges.
They include the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules Uttarakhand and Goa, the Congress, which rules Punjab, and others including the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Trinamool Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
While the data for Uttar Pradesh is being updated by the Commission in instalments, because the state goes to the polls in seven phases, the ECI is yet to summarise data for Manipur, which goes to polls in two phases on 27 February and 3 March.
Leaders with criminal records
Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi, Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami and Goa CM Pramod Sawant have declared that they have no criminal antecedents, according to the affidavits they filed with the EC.
Among prominent candidates who have declared criminal antecedents are former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat, who was booked by the CBI in 2019 in a case of alleged horse-trading and the AAP chief ministerial candidate for Punjab, Bhagwant Mann, who has declared a case on him that pertains to unlawful assembly and obstructing a public servant.
Former Goa CM Churchill Alemao, who defected from the Congress to the Trinamool Congress recently, has declared a case of corruption and another of alleged laundering.
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal has a pending case of cheating and forgery against him, and Sukhbir Singh Badal has at least five cases registered against him for wrongful restraint, criminal intimidation, assault on public servant, rioting and violating government order.
Vikram Majithia of the SAD has declared six cases on him — involving cases of violating public order, wrongful restraint as well as the drugs case registered against him in December 2021.
Former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh in his affidavit has declared a tax evasion case, the documents said.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)