SC asks Centre to examine accretion in poll candidates

SC asks Centre to examine accretion in poll candidates

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Union government to tells within two weeks if its orders for setting up a permanent mechanism to examine unnatural growth in assets of elected representatives were complied with. DH file photo

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Union government to tells within two weeks if its orders for setting up a permanent mechanism to examine unnatural growth in assets of elected representatives were complied with.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi sought to know, if the directions passed in February 2018 meant to bring in major poll reforms were followed or not.

The court asked if the system was in place to find out the non-disclosure of sources of candidates and dependents' income, which would form undue influence on the electors.

The court also asked the Centre to tell if the Amendment in Form 26 has been carried out for the inclusion of disqualifications, which the candidates might to be suffering under the provisions of the Representation of People Act.

The court sought a response from Legislative wing of the Law Ministry within two weeks on a contempt petition filed by Lucknow-based NGO 'Lok Prahari' through its general secretary S N Shukla.

The petitioner contended that several directions issued by the top court on February 16, 2018, were not complied with. 

In a landmark judgement, the top court had then asked the Centre to put in place a mechanism to periodically collect data of the elected representatives, their spouses and dependents to examine whether there was any "disproportionate increase" in their assets and recommend appropriate action in such cases.

It also directed the politicians, their spouses and dependents to declare their sources of income, along with their assets, for contesting elections.

A bench of Justices J Chelameswar (since retired) and S Abdul Nazeer ordered a slew of measures to reform the electoral process, observing that the "purity" of the electoral process was fundamental to the "survival of a healthy democracy".

The top court also said that as per the mechanism, details regarding disproportionate hike in the assets of elected representatives, their spouses and dependents should be placed before the "appropriate legislature" to consider the eligibility of such lawmakers to continue as members of Parliament and assemblies.

The court said that non-disclosure of assets and the sources of income of the candidates and their "associates", which include their spouses and dependents, would constitute a "corrupt practice" under the provision of the Representation of People (RP) Act, 1951.

It said that "undue accretion of assets" of elected representatives and their associates was a matter which should "alarm the citizens and voters of any truly democratic society", as the electors have a fundamental right to know the relevant information about the candidates contesting polls.

"We direct that Rule 4A of the Rules (Conduct of Election Rules, 1961) and Form 26 appended to the Rules shall be suitably amended, requiring candidates and their associates (spouse and dependents) to declare their sources of income," the bench had said in a 56-page judgement.

"We are also of the opinion the information regarding the sources of income of the legislators and their associates and candidates is relevant and legislators and candidates could be compelled even by subordinate legislation," the bench had said.