New Delhi, Sept. 13: The Supreme Court today ruled that election candidates who withhold information about themselves will have their nomination papers rejected.
The voter has the right to know the full particulars of a candidate who is to represent them in Parliament or the state Assembly, a three-judge bench said, upholding an appeal by an NGO that had sought rejection of nomination papers that are accompanied by an incomplete affidavit.
“Citizens are required to have the necessary informationů in order to make a choice of their voting. When a candidate files an affidavit with blank particulars, it renders the affidavit itself nugatory (irrelevant),” the bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi said.
But while the court said nomination papers with an incomplete affidavit should be rejected by the electoral officer, it turned down the plea that candidates should be prosecuted for withholding information.
“As the nomination paper itself is rejected by the returning officer, we find no reason why the candidate must again be penalised for the same act by prosecuting him/her,” the bench said, rejecting the Centre’s contention that a candidate who has filed an incomplete affidavit should be treated the same as a candidate who files an affidavit with false information.
Today’s judgment follows the twin rulings that convicted legislators cannot continue in office and that those in custody cannot contest elections.
The NGO, Resurgence India, had alleged that a large number of candidates were deliberately leaving certain columns blank in spite of an apex court ruling that all nomination papers must be accompanied by an affidavit. In 2002, the court had directed the Election Commission to issue necessary orders to call for personal information from candidates seeking election to Parliament or the state legislatures.
The affidavit is expected to furnish information on conviction/acquittal/discharge in any criminal offence or any pending case in an offence punishable with imprisonment for 2 years or more; on assets and liabilities of the candidate, their spouse and dependants; and the educational qualification of the candidate.
The court today said the returning officer can compel a candidate to furnish the relevant information on the date of scrutiny.
“We are of the opinion that another clause may be inserted for reminding the candidates to fill the blanks with the relevant information, thereby conveying the message that no affidavit with blank particulars will be entertained,” the three-judge bench said.
“If a candidate fails to fill the blanks even after the reminder by the returning officer, the nomination paper is fit to be rejected. We do comprehend that the power of returning officer to reject the nomination paper must be exercised very sparingly but the bar should not be laid so high that the justice itself is prejudiced,” the judges further said.
The candidate must make the minimum effort to explicitly write “NIL” or “Not Applicable” or “Not Known” in the columns and should not leave the particulars blank if they want the nomination papers to be accepted by the returning officer, the court said.
So far, returning officers were not authorised to reject papers on the grounds that the some columns had been left blank in the affidavit.