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The Mother India

  A Home page to achieve Electoral reforms, true democracy & citizens sovereignty in India

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Operating Portion of Supreme Court Judgment

02 May 2002

 The Election Commission is directed to call for information on affidavit by issuing necessary order in exercise of its power under Article 324 of the Constitution of India from each candidate seeking election to Parliament or a State legislature as a necessary part of his nomination paper, furnishing therein, information on the following aspects in relation to his/her candidature: 

1.      Whether the candidate has been convicted or acquitted or discharged of any criminal offence in the past-  If any whether he is punished with imprisonment or fine? 

2.      Prior to six months of filing of nomination, whether the candidate is accused in any pending case, of any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more, and in which charges were framed or cognizance was taken by a court of law, and if so, details thereof;  

3.      The assets (immovable, movable, bank balances, etc) of a candidate and of his/her spouse and that of his/her dependents; 

4.      Liabilities, if any, particularly whether there are any over dues of any public financial institution or government dues.

5.      The  educational qualifications of the candidate. 

It is to be stated that the Election Commission has from time to time issued instructions/orders to meet with the situation where the field is unoccupied by the legislation. Hence, the norms and modalities to carry out and give effect to the aforesaid directions should be drawn up properly by the Election Commission as early as possible and in any case within two months.

The Court categorically states as follows: 

1.      The jurisdiction of the Election Commission is wide enough to include all powers necessary for smooth conduct of elections and the word 'elections' is used in a wide sense to include the entire process of election which consists of several stages and embraces many steps. 

2.      The limitation on plenary character of power is when the Parliament or State Legislature has made a valid law relating to or in connection with elections, the Commission is required to act in conformity with the said provisions. In case where law is silent, Article 324 is a reservoir of power to act for the avowed purpose of having free and fair election. Constitution has taken care of leaving scope for exercise of residuary power by the Commission in its own right as a creature of the Constitution in the infinite variety of situations that may emerge from time to time in a large democracy,  as every contingency could not be foreseen or anticipated by the enacted laws or the rules. By issuing necessary directions,  Commission can fill the vacuum till there is Legislation on the subject.  In Kunhiya Lal Omar's case, the Court construed the expressions "superintendence, direction and control" in Article 324(1) and held that a direction may mean an order issued to a particular individual or a precept which may have to follow and it may be a specific or a general order and such phrase should be construed liberally empowering the Election Commission to issue such orders. 

3.      The word "elections" includes the entire process of election which consists of several stages and it embraces many steps, some of which may have an important bearing on the process of choosing a candidate.  Fair election contemplates disclosure by the candidate of  his past including the assets held by him so as to give a proper choice to the voter according to his thinking and opinion.  As stated earlier, in Common Cause case, the Court dealt with a contention that elections in the country are fought with the help of money power which is gathered from black sources and once elected to power,  it becomes easy to collect tons of black money, which is used for retaining power and for re-election.  If on affidavit a candidate is required to disclose the assets held by him at the time of election, voter can decide whether he could be re-elected even in case where he has collected tons of money. 

4.      To maintain the purity of elections and in particular to bring transparency in the process of elections, the Commission can ask the candidates about the expenditure incurred by the political parties and this transparency in the process of elections would include transparency of a candidate who seeks election or re-election.  In a democracy, the electoral process has a strategic role.  The little man of this country  would have basic elementary right to know full particulars of a candidate who is to represent him in Parliament where laws to bind his liberty and property may be enacted. 

5.  The right to get information in democracy is recognised all throughout and it is natural right flowing from the concept of democracy.  At this stage, we would refer to Article 19(1) and (2) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights which is as under:- 

"(1)      Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 

(2)               Everyone shall have the right to Freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice." 

6.                  Cumulative reading of plethora of decisions of this Court as referred to, it is clear that if the field meant for legislature and executive is left unoccupied detrimental to the public interest, this Court would have ample jurisdiction under Article 32 read with Articles 141 and 142 of the Constitution to issue  necessary directions to the executive to subserve public interest. 

7.                  Under our Constitution, Article 19(1)(a) provides for freedom of speech and expression.  Voters' speech or expression in case of election would include casting of votes, that is to say, voter speaks out or expresses by casting vote.  For this purpose, information about the candidate to be selected is must.  Voter's (little man-citizen's ) right to know antecedents including criminal past of his candidate contesting election for MP or MLA is much more fundamental and basic for  survival of democracy.  The little man may think over before making his choice of electing law breakers as law makers.

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