PUCL Bulletin, April 2003

Election reforms
-- By Y.P. Chhibbar

The Supreme Court of India, in a landmark Judgement on March 13, reiterated the fundamental rights of the voters to know about the candidates. This Judgement is a part of the continuing efforts of the Association for Democratic Reform (ADR) and the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) for strengthening people's faith in their elected representatives for ensuring the protection of their legal and fundamental rights in a democracy governed by the rule of law.

The original petition was filed in Delhi High Court. ('Bulletin, June 2002) The Judgement of the Hon'ble High Court was challenged by the government in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in its Judgement delivered on May 2, 2002, held that the voters had a fundamental right to know the antecedents of the candidates. The Election Commission issued a notification on June 28, 2002 in compliance of the Supreme Court verdict. The notification required every candidate to file, at the time of filing nomination, details of his/her criminal record, financial record, and educational status, etc., of self, spouse, and members of the family. All the political parties were up in arms against the judgement.

The Union government drafted an Ordinance to dilute the Supreme Court's order and sent it to the President on August 16. On the same day leading human rights activists, jurists, academics, media persons, and other activists called on the President and urged him to refer the draft to the Supreme Court under Article 143. The President returned the Ordinance to the government for reconsideration on August 23. The Cabinet reiterated its recommendation to the President without any change on August 24.

The President signed it and the Ordinance was promulgated. The Ordinance was later enacted by the Parliament as Act 77, 2002. This law was challenged again by the PUCL and the ADR. The Loksatta of Hyderabad also joined. Rajindar Sachar and Sanjay Parikh, Kamini Jaiswal, P.P. Rao, Prashant Bhushan, appeared before the court.

The Supreme Court verdict has now made it mandatory for the candidates to furnish on affidavit details on the following five counts.
Whether the candidate is convicted, acquitted, discharged of any criminal offence in the past, if any, whether he or she was punished with imprisonment or fine;

Prior to six months of filing nomination, whether the candidate is accused in any pending case of any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more, and in which charge is framed or cognisance is taken by the court of law. If so, the details thereof;

The assets of a candidate and his or her spouse and that of dependants;
Liabilities, if any, particularly whether there are any over dues of any public financial institutions or government dues; and The educational qualifications of the candidate



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