New Delhi, Sep 13 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that returning officer can reject nomination papers of a candidate for non-disclosure and suppression of information, including that of assets and their criminal background.
The apex court said that voters have fundamental right to know about their candidates and leaving columns blank in the nomination paper amounts to violation of their right.
A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said that the power of returning officer for rejecting nomination papers must be exercised.
The court passed the judgement on a Public-Interest Litigation filed in 2008 by Resurgence India, a civil rights group, which detected a trend among candidates of leaving blank the columns demanding critical information about them.
Earlier, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, had said leaving any column blank would mean non-compliance of an apex court judgment.
The Election Commission had supported the NGO's plea that no column should be allowed to be left blank which tantamounts to concealing information and not filing complete affidavit.
It had also taken a stand that the returning officer should be empowered to reject the nomination papers of a candidate who provides incomplete information by leaving some columns blank in the affidavit.
Centre's counsel, however, had said the right to contest election is a statutory one and there is a judgement of the three-judge bench of the apex court that even for concealing the information, the nomination papers cannot be rejected.
The bench was earlier told that while filing nomination papers, candidates are supposed to furnish affidavits in which there are columns in which they give their educational qualifications, financial assets and liabilities and possible criminal antecedents.
However, instances are there when candidates prefer to leave the column vacant, the NGO had said.
Bhushan had told the bench that the PIL was filed after scrutinising over 7,000 affidavits filed by candidates along with their nomination papers during Punjab Assembly elections in 2007.
The NGO has submitted that candidates, out of fear of attracting charges of perjury for giving false information under oath in the affidavit, would rather leave the column blank.
It had said this would leave the poll panel incapable of either rejecting the nomination or taking any action.
The EC, in its reply, had said that by resorting to this mechanism candidates have been able to frustrate voters' right to critical information about themselves.