EC can disqualify candidates filing false accounts: Apex court

EC can disqualify candidates filing false accounts: Apex court

The Supreme Court on Monday empowered the Election Commission to disqualify a candidate for filing false accounts of election expenditure and directed the poll panel to finish inquiries against former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda within 45 days and take appropriate action over allegations of paid news.

Chavan, whose name figured in the Adarsh Housing scam, is fighting the Lok Sabha elections this time from Nanded in Maharashtra.

In a significant judgment, a bench of Justices S S Nijjar and F M I Kalifulla, rejected the government stand that the poll panel could disqualify a person only in the event of his or her failure to lodge an expenditure account and not for any other reason. The government had claimed that the EC could not examine the correctness or otherwise of such accounts.

It is the well within the jurisdiction of the EC to hold an inquiry into the correctness of accounts and order disqualification if a candidate is found indulging in furnishing false accounts of expenditure and also in paid news, the apex court said, adding the poll panel was not merely into a record-keeping business.

The Election Commission drew its power to disqualify a candidate for three years under the provision of the Representation of the People Act and the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. The court favoured such an interpretation of the laws to ensure free and fair elections and also provide a level-playing field to all the candidates.

The court was dealing with the matter concerning former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, and Uttar Pradesh MLA Umlesh Yadav. The bench asked the EC to finish inquiries against Chavan and Koda within 45 days and take appropriate action over allegations of paid news.

Chavan was under inquiry by the EC after his 2009 victory from the Bhokar assembly seat in Nanded district for allegedly having misstated his real expenditure in the election campaign of 2009, and indulging in paid news. The probe was launched by EC on the complaints filed by BJP leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Kirit Somaiyya. Chavan had challenged the Delhi HC order refusing any relief to him.

Koda was probed by the EC in a similar case, whereas sitting Uttar Pradesh MLA Umlesh Yadav, wife of D P Yadav, was disqualified on the ground of filing incorrect statements in October 2011.

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