(Riya Singh, Intern Journalist): Recently, the Election Commission (EC) sent a letter to 150 registered political parties in Bihar asking them to reveal reasons why candidates with criminal records are given poll tickets. This has resulted in jitters within the state’s political parties. That comes as the political activity in Patna picks up ahead of the October-November Legislative Assembly election. Bihar Legislative Assembly term ends on 29 November.

Although this Directive was sent in accordance with the February ruling of the Supreme Court, it has returned undelivered from 20 party headquarters addresses. The polling body took careful notice of the matter.

In the main order, in February, the apex court instructed that political parties should notify voters about why they had selected candidates with criminal cases pending against them. Political parties will also be expected to publish information about their candidates’ criminal backgrounds in newspapers and on social media sites within 48 hours. Previously, the criminal record of a nominee can be reported only in his or her election affidavit. SC also pointed out that the only reason offered by the parties may not be “the desire to win by a candidate with criminal antecedents.”

Bihar ‘s election will be the first since a decision by the top court. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has, however, said it would abide by the order.

Meanwhile, Sushil Chandra, Election Commissioner, has said COVID-19 patients in Bihar will be allowed to vote by postal ballot. Chandra said the Law Ministry had accepted the proposal from the poll panel and a new category of “COVID-19 suspect or affected persons” was added in accordance with Rule 27A of the Election Rules, 1961.

Bihar will be the first state in the country to go to polls since the outbreak of COVID-19. So far, the poll panel has not suggested a postponement of the race. To ensure that voters exercise social distance, EC is likely to limit the number of voters at each polling booth to 1,000, rather than 1,600.

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