Don't allow to contest if assets not fully disclosed: SC

PTI, NEW DELHI | 13 September 2013 19:51 IST

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a candidate shall not be allowed to contest election for non-disclosure and suppression of information, including that of assets and his criminal background saying it will violate voters' right to know their would be representative.

The apex court said that the returning officer of the Election Commission is empowered to reject the nomination paper of a candidate if he fails to provide all the required information and to fill the blanks in the paper after being reminded.

"It is the duty of the returning officer to check whether the information required is fully furnished at the time of filing of affidavit with the nomination paper since such information is very vital for giving effect to the right to know of the citizens.

"If a candidate fails to fill the blanks even after the reminder by the officer, the nomination paper is fit to be rejected," a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said.

It said "the candidate must take the minimum effort to explicitly remark as 'NIL' or 'Not Applicable' or 'Not known' in the columns and not to leave the particulars blank.

"In succinct, if the Election Commission accepts the nomination papers in spite of blank particulars in the affidavits, it will directly violate the fundamental right of the citizen to know the criminal antecedents, assets and liabilities and educational qualification of the candidate," the bench, also comprising justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, said.

"Thus, in unequivocal terms, it is recognized that citizen's right to know of the candidate who represents him in the Parliament will constitute an integral part of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution (freedom of speech and expression) and any act, which is derogative of the fundamental rights is at the very outset ultra vires." it said.

The apex court, however, turned down the plea of Centre that candidates be penalised for leaving columns in nomination paper blank. It said that the such power of the officer to reject the nomination paper must be exercised very "sparingly".

"The ultimate purpose of filing of affidavit along with the nomination paper is to effectuate the fundamental right of the citizens. The citizens are supposed to have the necessary information at the time of filing of nomination paper and for that purpose, the returning officer can very well compel a candidate to furnish the relevant information," it said.

The court passed the judgement on a PIL filed in 2008 by NGO Resurgence India, a civil rights group, which detected a trend among candidates of leaving blank the columns demanding critical information about them.

The NGO had said leaving any column blank would mean non-compliance of an apex court earlier judgement which made it mandatory for candidates to provide all information.

The Election Commission had supported the NGO's plea that no column should be allowed to be left blank which tantamount to concealing information and not filing complete affidavit.

The Centre had gone one step further by contending that candidates be penalised for not furnishing all information.

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