Poll panel gets notice over loophole in electoral law

April 15th, 2008 - 7:47 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) There’s an Election Commission form that asks every candidate to list educational qualifications, financial assets and possible criminal antecedents. But what is to be done if a candidate leaves some columns blank? That’s what the Supreme Court asked the commission and the government Tuesday. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan issued notices on a petition by an NGO, which explained how candidates have devised a way to frustrate an earlier apex court ruling that binds them to apprise voters of their educational qualification, financial assets and possible criminal antecedents.

The bench, which also included Justice R.V. Raveendran, sought replies from the government and the poll panel within four weeks.

Appearing for petitioner Resurgence India, counsel Prashant Bhushan said candidates are concealing controversial information by leaving columns blank in the affidavit accompanying their nomination papers.

The counsel said the petitioner detected the innovative way adopted by politicians by scrutinising a few hundred affidavits filed by candidates during the February 2007 assembly elections in Punjab.

He said Resurgence India had examined 388 affidavits of candidates belonging to six major political parties. It found that 369 of them had left various columns in their affidavits blank.

He said the 369 candidates had concealed information about themselves on a whopping 1,451 counts, with each candidate on an average hiding information on four counts.

Bhushan said the Supreme Court in May 2002 had made it mandatory for candidates to disclose their educational qualifications, financial assets and liabilities, including those of their wives and children, and their personal criminal antecedents, if any.

To implement the apex court ruling, the Election Commission on June 28, 2002, amended the forms of its nomination papers and the affidavits to be annexed to them.

It also authorised the returning officers to reject nomination papers in case candidates had not filled in their affidavits properly.

The poll panel order had then led to a hue and cry among politicians, who contended that a clerk or bureaucrat could not deprive a candidate of his fundamental right to contest an election after a summary scrutiny of their nomination papers.

This led the government to challenge the Election Commission order before the apex court, which divested the returning officer of the power to reject a nomination paper. It said that the authenticity of the information provided in the affidavits could not be ascertained summarily.

This led to candidates often leaving blank columns in their affidavits.

The Election Commission order as well as the Supreme Court ruling says that those giving false information would be liable to be prosecuted.

But both are silent on what is to be done in case a candidate leaves some columns in his affidavit blank.

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