A Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra has ruled that if any elected representative conceals information regarding pending criminal cases, his election can be set aside.
The Bench observed, “Non-disclosure of criminal antecedents amounts to corrupt practice by the candidates. The crucial recognized ideal which is required to be realized is eradication of criminalization of politics and corruption in public life.”
It further added, "Disclosure of criminal antecedents of a candidate, especially, pertaining to heinous or serious offence or offences relating to corruption or moral turpitude at the time of filing of nomination paper as mandated by law is a categorical imperative.”
The Madras High Court in 2006 had nullified the election of the appellant Panchayat member in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. The High Court had found his guilty of not disclosing pending criminal cases against him while filing his nomination for elections. Upholding the Madras High Court’s decision, the Supreme Court today imposed a fine of Rs. 50,000 on him.
The Court was called upon to decide what constitutes “undue influence” in the context of Section 260 of Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994, which the similar expression as has been used under Section 123 (2) of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951.
Ruling the presence of such influence in the present case, it said, “As the candidate has the special knowledge of the pending cases where cognizance has been taken or charges have been framed and there is a non-disclosure on his part, it would amount to undue influence and, therefore, the election is to be declared null and void by the Election Tribunal under 97 Section 100(1)(b) of the 1951 Act.”
Emphasizing on the importance of such disclosure, the Court observed, “If a voter is denied of the acquaintance to the information and deprived of the condition to be apprised of the entire gamut of criminal antecedents relating to heinous or serious offences or offence of corruption or moral turpitude, the exercise of electoral right would not be an advised one. He will be exercising his franchisee with the misinformed mind. That apart, his fundamental right to know also gets nullified. The attempt has to be perceived as creating an impediment in the mind of a voter, who is expected to vote to make a free, informed and advised choice. The same is sought to be scuttled at the very commencement.”
Last year, the Law Commission had filed a report before the Apex Court recommending debarring of candidates charged with commission of heinous crimes punishable with imprisonment of a term exceeding 5 years, from contesting elections. The Law Commission report assumed significance in view of the fact that out of 4,835 MPs and MLA’s, as many as 1,448 are facing criminal charges- 641 for heinous crimes. Of 543 Lok Sabha MPs, 162 have pending criminal cases while 75 face serious charges. Read the LiveLaw story here.
Read the judgment here.