SC refuse PIL seeking EC to disclose criminal antecedents, assets of candidates
The Supreme Court Tuesday refused to entertain a PIL seeking a direction to the Election Commission to ensure that voters' fundamental right to know about criminal antecedents and assets of candidates in polls is enforced.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said such issues "cannot be the subject matter of judicial decisions" and the job pertained to other constitutional functionaries like the poll panel.
"Can it be the matter of judicial decisions and directions," asked the bench, which also comprised justices, S K Kaul and K M Joseph.
Refusing to entertain the PIL filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, it said, "We have a lot of other work to do. Let the other constitutional functionaries work also... Working of the Constitution is the joint responsibility of constitutional functionaries."
The PIL had referred to recent notifications of the poll panel and said they have been issued without either amending the model code of conduct (MCC) or the Election Symbol Order and hence, they lacked legal sanction to force candidates to disclose their personal details.
Recently, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had held that all candidates will have to declare their criminal antecedents to the poll panel before contesting an election.
It had also asked the legislature to consider framing a law to ensure decriminalisation of politics.
The PIL had sought a direction to the poll panel to ensure the right of voters to know "age, qualification, criminal antecedents and assets of candidates".
It said if the candidates do not advertise their details adequately then their election "be set aside and the nomination of the candidate would stand rejected".
The plea also sought that the candidates disclose their details on a minimum space of 33 per cent in case of banner, poster and hoarding advertisements and a minimum of 33 per cent of the running time in case of audio and video recordings.
"It is imperative that this information is displayed widely, and onus must be on candidate seeking high Constitutional office to make a clean breast of things," the petition said.
Each candidate and every political party should publish all the details thrice, in leading English, Hindi and vernacular news channels and newspapers, the list of which would be provided by the EC based on their TRP and circulation, it said.
The petition contended that it was the fundamental rights of voters to know about the details of their candidates and this right could not be secured until the candidates publish this information on advertisements.
The petition mentioned that in the 2014 General election, 17 per cent of the candidates had criminal charges framed against them and eventually the House had 33 per cent of 'tainted' individuals, adding that their percentage has risen thrice from 2009 elections.
The plea said that it cannot probably be presumed that the electorates of India are deliberately choosing those who are suspected criminals, to be their legislative representatives.
"It could only be that true information of their backgrounds and the contents of their affidavits have not been made known to the public," the petition said.
(With inputs from agencies.)