New Delhi : Candidates attempting to wriggle out of giving vital information about themselves while filing nomination papers are in for trouble – thanks to the Supreme Court.
The apex court Thursday asked the Election Commission to insist that candidates inform the poll panel about their educational qualifications, financial assets and liabilities and possible criminal antecedents while filing their poll papers.
A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam issued the direction to the poll panel while hearing a lawsuit, which pointed out that some candidates – exploiting some legal anomalies – leave the relevant columns in their nomination papers blank.
The public interest lawsuit had been filed last year by Resurgence India, a civil rights group, which detected a trend among candidates of leaving blank the columns demanding critical information about them.
Appearing for the civil right groups, senior counsel Prashant Bhushan explained to the bench that his client had found this out after scrutinising over 7,000 affidavits filed by candidates along with their nomination papers during the Punjab assembly elections in 2007.
He said candidates, out of fear of attracting charges of perjury for giving false information under oath in the affidavit, would rather leave the column blank.
Bhushan explained that this would leave the poll panel incapable of either rejecting the nomination or taking any action.
On this lawsuit, the apex court had issued notice last year to the poll panel, which in its reply said that by resorting to this mechanism candidates have been able to frustrate voters’ right to critical information about themselves.
Appearing for the Election Commission, senior counsel Meenakshi Arora Thursday admitted that by this ruse candidates make the poll panel unable to take any action against them.
Arora, however, told the court that the poll panel was now insisting that candidates must fill at least “not applicable” or “nil” in those columns and not leave them blank. However, in such cases, the poll panel would still be able to prosecute the candidates for committing perjury.
At this the bench asked the Election Commission to insist on getting the information from the candidates.
Voters had got the legal right on such critical information about candidates following a protracted legal battle in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court in early 2000s.
The apex court ruled in favour of the voters’ right to information about the candidates. The government changed the electoral laws following the ruling, but the Election Commission is yet to frame proper rules to ensure voters rights, said Bhushan.