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The Mother India

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

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29th June, 2002

LOK SATTA - PRESS NOTE

 

Lok Satta expresses its deepest appreciation to the Election Commission of India for its decision to enforce the Supreme Court Judgment of May 2, 2002. This order of the Commission making it mandatory for candidates to file affidavits disclosing details of their criminal record, if any, statements of assets and liabilities in respect of themselves, spouses and dependent members of the family and other personal data will go a long way in promoting transparency in public life, and helping voters make informed choices. The Commission's directive that wilful non-filing of the affidavit will entail rejection of nomination, and false disclosure will invite prosecution and possible election petitions, is vital and it gives teeth to the mandatory disclosure norms.

 

We would like to emphatically state that the Election Commission's order is strictly in accordance with the powers vested in them under Article 324, and within the boundaries set by the Supreme Court. The Court directed the EC to make the information on affidavit a necessary part of the nomination paper. That is exactly what the EC has done. We fully endorse and appreciate the Election Commission's far-reaching decision. The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the Election Commission, whose strength, independence, impartially and credibility have once again been amply demonstrated to the public.

 

Many civil society groups and activists have played a pivotal role in this significant success. Lok Satta movement, as part of its electoral reform campaign, has been in the forefront of this struggle. Association for Democratic Reforms and PUCL have filed petitions before Supreme Court and fought long and hard for Court directives successfully. Common Cause, Public Affairs Centre, AGNI, Catalyst Trust, Concerned Citizens for Calcutta, Parivartan, CYSD, Transparency International, Lok Sevak Sangh, Women's Political Watch, Centre for Media Studies and many other organisations and movements have actively campaigned for transparency and disclosure by candidates. Many friends and activists all over the world - including Foundation for Democratic Reforms in India, and many Indian organisations based abroad - actively campaigned and mobilized public support for this cause. Eminent Indians like Sri Kuldip Nayar, Sri TN Seshan, Sri PS Appu, Justice Rajindar Sachar, Sri L C Jain, Sri B G Deshmukh, Sri Samuel Paul, Gen. Vinod Saighal, Sri Pran Chopra, Dr N Bhaskara Rao, Dr Subhash Kashyap, Dr MS Gill and others played a pivotal role in guiding this effort through their active leadership and wise counsel. Their untiring efforts deserve our heartfelt gratitude.

 

However significant this victory is, this is still a small step in the long and arduous struggle for comprehensive electoral reform. Efforts are underway to build a national platform for launching a sustained and vigorous campaign for specific electoral reforms. Improved voter registration by making the process open and accessible through post offices as nodal agencies, specific steps to curb polling irregularities and rigging, disclosure of political party accounts, regulation of parties to ensure conformity with minimum democratic standards of behaviour and effective and enforceable  political funding reform are the immediate goals before the nation. More far reaching reform to reduce the incentive to spend large amounts of  unaccounted money in elections and to check opportunities for unbridled corruption will have to be taken up in the second phase.

 

On this happy occasion, Lok Satta rededicates itself to the cause of comprehensive electoral and governance reforms.  Million of Indians across the country responded magnificiently to Lok Satta’s call for support to Supreme Court Judgment.  More than 100,000 post cards, letters and messages were sent to the Election Commission, Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Law Minister.  Over 500,000 citizens signed petitions seeking effective enforcement of the Supreme Court judgment.  It is this collective, and informed assertion of the enlightened citizens which makes our democracy vibrant and our future bright.  We need to continue this vigil, and build on this success to relentlessly pursue electoral and governance reforms.  We express our grateful appreciation to all citizens and groups for responding so readily and warmly, and for rallying so effectively in support of a better India.

 

Finally, the struggle for a better India is a battle for the minds of the people.  The print and electronic media have as always done a magnificent  job in support of people’s right to be informed and comprehensive electoral and governance reforms.  We salute the media for this seminal role, and look forward to their continued and vigorous support in the greater struggle ahead for comprehensive electoral and governance reforms.  

 

Justice A Lakshmana Rao                                                    Jayaprakash Narayan

Former Chief Justice - Allahabad High Court                              National Coordinator

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