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From: "LokSatta" <fonderef@hd1.vsnl.net.in>
To: "Tirumala Srinivas" <corruptioneradication@yahoo.com>
Subject: letter to the Election Commission
Date: Sun, 14 Jul 2002 08:27:08 +0530

letter to the Election Commission

NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR ELECTORAL REFORMS
 
July 12th , 2002
 
Sri J. M. Lyngdoh
Chief Election Commissioner of India
Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road
New Delhi - 110001
 
 
Esteemed Chief Election Commissioner,
 
The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Election Commission for its order dated June 28 directing all candidates to disclose certain details along with their nomination. It is particularly gratifying to note that the affidavit was made mandatory by ordering that non-filing of the affidavit would entail rejection of nomination. This is a significant milestone in the evolution of our polity, and will certainly go a long way in furthering the cause of electoral reforms and ensuring probity in public life.
 
As we are all aware, in the all party meeting held on 8th July, most parties expressed certain reservations about disclosure norms. While most of the arguments were extraneous to the issue, one concern expressed by the parties seems to have some merit in it. The Election Commission’s intention was obviously to ensure that the candidates comply with the disclosure norms. Quite rightly the Commission wanted to foreclose the option of perfunctorily signing the affidavit and proforma without filling in the details. Therefore, para 14 (4) of the order provided as follows:
 
Furnishing of any wrong or incomplete information or suppression of any material information by any candidate in  or from the said affidavit may also result in the rejection of his nomination paper where such wrong or incomplete information or suppression of material information is considered by the returning officer to be a defect of substantial character, apart from inviting penal consequences under the Indian Penal Code for furnishing wrong     information to a public servant or suppression of material facts before him:
 
Provided that only such information shall be considered to be wrong or incomplete or amounting to suppression of  material information as is capable of easy verification by the returning officer by reference to documentary proof adduced before him in the summary inquiry conducted by him at the time of scrutiny of nominations under section 36 (2) of the Representation of the People Act 1951, and only the information so verified shall be taken into  account by him for further consideration of the question whether the same is a defect of substantial character.
 
The intent of the order considering the totality of the circumstances is clearly to ensure compliance, but not to frivolously reject nominations. The impeccable record of the Election Commission since 1952 and the fact that we probably cannot cite even a dozen instances of rejection of nomination on flimsy grounds out of the 1,50,000 or so nominations filed in all elections clearly show that the danger of frivolous rejections is minimal.
 
However political parties and candidates who fiercely compete for people’s mandate, have legitimate, if not well-founded, fears of this discretionary power being abused by rival political parties, particularly those in power, using Returning Officers as “unguided missiles”. This fear seems to be causing great anxiety and resistance to disclosure norms.  Also it is humanly impossible for a local Returning Officer to verify the accuracy of the data furnished suo motu, or on receiving objections, in the short span of time and limited resources at his disposal. Therefore the fear of such a discretion being abused is genuine. The Returning Officer should, however, make public affidavits filed by rival candidates and others disputing the candidate’s disclosures. Para 14 (6) of the Commission’s order rightly provides for such a disclosure.
 
Under the circumstances, we, the concerned citizens and non-partisan organizations who constitute the National Campaign for Electoral Reforms respectfully appeal to you to issue an immediate clarification amplifying the import of the Commission’s intentions. Para 14(4) may be amended and it may be officially clarified that the Returning Officer shall not have the authority to verify the information furnished, and that the only stipulation is that the candidate should fill all columns. Any concealment or false disclosure should certainly constitute cause for criminal prosecution as well as election petition. It may also be clarified that “ defect of substantial character” means refusal to fill any details and leaving columns under any major head blank. Perhaps the para can be reworded to differentiate between what entails rejection of nomination, and what will invite prosecution and/or election petition.
 
Given the public importance of the issue, and the fact that it is widely reported that government proposes to bring in an immediate legislation, we will be grateful if such a clarification is issued at the very earliest. The National Campaign is taking this liberty of making this unusual appeal only keeping in view the importance and urgency of the issue. We once again reiterate our full and unqualified support to the Commission’s relentless efforts to ensure free and fair elections.
 
With warm regards
 
 
Jayaprakash Narayan
 
 
cc:        1. Sri T S Krishnamurthy, Election Commissioner of India
            2. Sri B B Tandon, Election Commissioner of India

 

 

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