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Up to 80% poll-related FIRs filed in 2017 pending trial

Even as the focus in this round of elections in the five states is on how far the Election Commission and its machinery will go in booking parties and candidates for electoral offences and Covid-19 violations, there is startling data from previous elections on the fate of the election First Information Reports (FIRs).Data accessed by ET shows that in one of the poll-bound states 80% FIRs filed for electoral offences in the 2017 assembly elections are still pending trial in courts, even as another election season starts.As per state-wise data compiled until November 2021, of the 1,279 FIRs filed for electoral offences in the 2017 election in Uttar Pradesh, as many as 1,023 are still pending in court. Only in 115 cases is the judgment pronounced. In 141 cases, a closure report was filed without any chargesheet.

The data tells a similar story for Lok Sabha elections 2019. Almost 80% of the FIRs filed in UP, 376 of the 473, are still in court. Judgments came in three cases alone.By-elections in 2019 saw 89 FIRs filed in the most populous state and 71 of these are hanging fire in courts.In neighboring Uttarakhand, of the 76 FIRs filed in 2017 assembly elections, 31 are pending trial. Closure reports were filed in 21 cases and convictions made in 10 cases.In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, of the 17 FIRs lodged for electoral offences, nine are pending trial.Goa is no different. Of the 91 FIRs filed in the state in 2017, 37 are pending in court. All five FIRs filed in the 2017 by-elections are still pending as are the three filed in 2019 by-elections. Of the six FIRs lodged in 2019 Parliament elections, three are awaiting court proceedings.In case of Punjab, nearly 33% cases from the 2017 poll are in court. Of the 1,931 cases, 632 are under trial, 93 were cancelled and 225 are untraceable.From 2019 Lok Sabha polls, of the 3,961 cases lodged, 3,340 remain under trial and 180 are untraced.Data for poll-bound Manipur is unavailable to ET but unlikely to be radically different, said officials.The numbers also worry the poll panel. At the recent round of meetings- first with CEOs to all states, and more recently in interactions with officials from election-bound states-the EC emphasised on the need to follow through on cases filed for electoral offences.In fact, the ability to take these to logical conclusion is viewed as necessary to maintain the sanctity of the election process, the rulebook of the model code of conduct as well as the effectiveness of the EC.The laws cover almost every type of electoral offence to file a FIR under.The Indian Penal Code has a chapter on ‘offences related to elections’ and lists bribery, undue influence, personation, false statement and illegal payment in connection with elections as offences.There is a longer list under the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 ranging from Promoting enmity between people to filing false affidavits, disturbances at election meetings, misconduct at polling stations, misuse of government servants, going armed to or near the polling stations and so on.The penalties prescribed are also heavy and range from barring from voting to contesting elections.

Source: Economic Times