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EC wields clean-up broom

New Delhi, March 31: In a bid to cleanse the electoral system, the Election Commission today re-issued its order laying down guidelines for candidates contesting Assembly and parliamentary polls.

The guidelines, which come into effect from today, follow the Supreme Court’s March 13 order upholding the commission’s guidelines that were earlier rejected by most political parties.

“Non-furnishing of an affidavit by any candidate shall be considered a violation of the order of the Supreme Court and the nomination of the candidate concerned shall be liable to rejection by the returning officer at the time of scrutiny of nominations for such non-furnishing of the affidavit,” the order says.

The guidelines make it mandatory for a nominee to declare his or her criminal record — if any — with a disclosure of assets, financial liabilities and educational qualifications.

The candidate is expected to provide all this information at the time of filing nominations. The affidavit presented by a candidate will have to be attested by a “first-class magistrate, a notary public or a commissioner of oaths”, according to the order.

It, however, takes note of the objections raised by political parties regarding the wide powers given to returning officers who, according to the commission’s earlier guidelines, could summarily bar a candidate from contesting polls if the officer though it fit.

The parties were of the opinion that such crucial power should be vested with a higher authority and not a returning officer.

The new order says a returning officer can declare a nomination invalid only if the candidates fails to furnish the necessary information. The officer, however, will have to consult higher authorities in case he or she seeks to debar a candidate even after getting the relevant documents.

“For removing doubts it is hereby clarified there can be no verification of assets and liabilities by a summary inquiry and rejection of nomination papers thereafter on grounds of furnishing wrong information,” the order says.

The commission also makes it clear that any rejection of nomination papers will have to go deeper than a summary inquiry by a returning officer.

The information given by a candidate will be put up on the notice board of the returning officer’s office and copies will be made available to all candidates and representatives of the print and electronic media. Anybody who wishes to challenge the veracity of the information will have to do so through another affidavit.

The commission’s order clarifies that apart from the new guidelines, candidates will have to comply with all rules laid down in the code of conduct and the Representation of People’s Act.

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