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Saturday, September 14, 2013

What emerges from the above discussion can be summarized in the form of following directions: (i) The voter has the elementary right to know full particulars of a candidate who is to represent him in the Parliament/Assemblies and such right to get information is universally recognized. Thus, it is held that right to know about the candidate is a natural right flowing from the concept of democracy and is an integral part of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. (ii) The ultimate purpose of filing of affidavit along with the nomination paper is to effectuate the fundamental right of the citizens under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The citizens are supposed to have the necessary information at the time of filing of nomination paper and for that purpose, the Returning Officer can very well compel a candidate to furnish the relevant information. (iii) Filing of affidavit with blank particulars will render the affidavit nugatory. (iv) It is the duty of the Returning Officer to check whether the information required is fully furnished at the time of filing of affidavit with the nomination paper since such information is very vital for giving effect to the ‘right to know’ of the citizens. If a candidate fails to fill the blanks even after the reminder by the Returning Officer, the nomination paper is fit to be rejected. We do comprehend that the power of Returning Officer to reject the nomination paper must be exercised very sparingly but the bar should not be laid so high that the justice itself is prejudiced. (v) We clarify to the extent that Para 73 of People’s Union for Civil Liberties case (supra) will not come in the way of the Returning Officer to reject the nomination paper when affidavit is filed with blank particulars. (vi) The candidate must take the minimum effort to explicitly remark as ‘NIL’ or ‘Not Applicable’ or ‘Not known’ in the columns and not to leave the particulars blank. (vii) Filing of affidavit with blanks will be directly hit by Section 125A(i) of the RP Act However, as the nomination paper itself is rejected by the Returning Officer, we find no reason why the candidate must be again penalized for the same act by prosecuting him/her. 28) The Writ Petition is disposed of with the above directions.

              published in     http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgst.aspx?filename=40768                 
 REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                         CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION


                   1 WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 121 OF 2008



Resurgence India                             .... Petitioner (s)

            Versus

Election Commission of India & Anr.                  .... Respondent(s)

                                      2







                               J U D G M E N T


P.Sathasivam, CJI.

1)    This writ petition, under Article 32 of  the  Constitution  of  India,
has been  filed  to  issue  specific  directions  to  effectuate  meaningful
implementation of the judgments rendered by this Court  in  
Union  of  India
vs. Association for Democratic Reforms and Another  (2002)  5  SCC  294  and
People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Another vs. Union of  India  &
Anr. (2003) 4 SCC 399 and
also to direct the respondents herein to  make  it
compulsory for the Returning Officers to ensure that  the  affidavits  filed
by  the  contestants  are  complete  in  all  respects  and  to  reject  the
affidavits having blank particulars.
Background:
2)    In order to maintain purity of elections and to bring transparency  in
the process of election, this Court, in Association for  Democratic  Reforms
(supra), directed the Election Commission of India-Respondent No.  1  herein
to issue necessary orders, in exercise of its power  under  Article  324  of
the Constitution, to call for information on affidavit from  each  candidate
seeking election to the Parliament or a State  Legislature  as  a  necessary
part of his nomination paper furnishing therein information relating to  his
conviction/acquittal/discharge in any criminal  offence  in  the  past,  any
case pending against him of any offence punishable with imprisonment  for  2
years or  more,  information  regarding  assets  (movable,  immovable,  bank
balance etc.) of the candidate as well as of  his/her  spouse  and  that  of
dependants, liability, if any, and  the  educational  qualification  of  the
candidate.
3)    Pursuant to the above  order,  the  Election  Commission,  vide  order
dated 28.06.2002, issued certain directions to  the  candidates  to  furnish
full and complete information in  the  form  of  an  affidavit,  duly  sworn
before a  Magistrate  of  the  First  Class,  with  regard  to  the  matters
specified in Association  for  Democratic  Reforms  (supra).   It  was  also
directed  that  non-furnishing  of  the  affidavit  by  any   candidate   or
furnishing of any wrong or incomplete  information  or  suppression  of  any
material information will result in the rejection of the  nomination  paper,
apart from inviting penal consequences under the Indian  Penal  Code,  1860.
It was further clarified that only such information shall be  considered  to
be wrong or incomplete or  suppression  of  material  information  which  is
found to be a defect of substantial character by the  Returning  Officer  in
the summary inquiry conducted by him at the time of scrutiny  of  nomination
papers.
4)    In People’s Union for Civil Liberties  (PUCL)  (supra),  
though  this
Court  reaffirmed  the  aforementioned  decision  but  also  held  that  the
direction to reject the nomination papers for furnishing  wrong  information
or  concealing  material  information  and  verification   of   assets   and
liabilities by means of a summary inquiry at the time  of  scrutiny  of  the
nominations cannot be justified.
5)    Pursuant to the above,  the  Election  Commission,  vide  order  dated
27.03.2003, held its earlier order  dated  28.06.2002  non-enforceable  with
regard to verification  of  assets  and  liabilities  by  means  of  summary
inquiry and rejection of nomination  papers  on  the  ground  of  furnishing
wrong information or suppression of material information.
6)    Again, the Election Commission of India, vide letter dated  02.06.2004
directed  the  Chief  Electoral  Officers  of  all  the  States  and   Union
Territories  that  where  any  complaint  regarding  furnishing   of   false
information by any candidate is  submitted  by  anyone,  supported  by  some
documentary  evidence,  the  Returning  Officer  concerned  should  initiate
action to prosecute the  candidate  concerned  by  filing  formal  complaint
before the appropriate authority.
Brief facts:
7)    In the above backdrop, the brief facts of the  case  in  hand  are  as
under:-
Resurgence  India-the  petitioner  herein  is  a   non-governmental
organization (NGO) registered under the  Societies  Registration  Act,  1860
and is working for social awakening, social empowerment,  human  rights  and
dignity.   During  Punjab  Legislative   Assembly   Elections,   2007,   the
petitioner-organization  undertook  a  massive  exercise  under  the  banner
“Punjab Election Watch’ and affidavits pertaining to the candidates  of  six
major political parties in the State were analyzed in order to verify  their
completeness.  During such campaign, large scale irregularities  were  found
in most of the affidavits filed by the candidates.
8)    On 09.02.2007, the petitioner-organization made  a  representation  to
the Election Commission of India regarding large number  of  non-disclosures
in the affidavits filed by the contestants in the State of Punjab  and  poor
level of scrutiny by the Returning Officers.  Vide letter dated  20.02.2007,
the Election Commission of India expressed its inability  in  rejecting  the
nomination  papers  of  the  candidates  solely   due   to   furnishing   of
false/incomplete information in the affidavits in view of  the  judgment  in
People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) (supra).
9)     Being  aggrieved  of  the  same,  the   petitioner-organization   has
preferred this petition for the issuance of a writ of mandamus  to  make  it
compulsory for the Returning Officers to ensure that  the  affidavits  filed
by the contestants should be complete in all respects and  to  reject  those
nomination papers which  are  accompanied  by  incomplete/blank  affidavits.
The petitioner-organization also prayed for  deterrent  action  against  the
Returning Officers in case of acceptance of such  incomplete  affidavits  in
order to remove deficiencies in the format of the prescribed affidavit.
10)   Heard Mr.  Prashant  Bhushan,  learned  counsel  for  the  petitioner-
organization,  Ms.  Meenakshi  Arora,  learned  counsel  for  the   Election
Commission of  India-Respondent  No.  1  herein  and  Mr.  A.  Mariarputham,
learned senior counsel for the Union of India.
Prayer/Relief Sought for:

Stand of the Petitioner-Organization:


11)    The  Petitioner-organization  pleaded  for  issuance  of  appropriate
writ/direction including the writ  of  mandamus  directing  the  respondents
herein to make it compulsory for the Returning Officers to ensure  that  the
affidavits filed by the candidates are  complete  in  all  respects  and  to
reject those nomination papers, which are accompanied by blank affidavits.


Stand of the Election Commission of India:


It is the stand of the Election Commission of India  that  the  judgment  in
People’s Union for Civil Liberties  (PUCL)  (supra)  does  not  empower  the
Returning Officers to reject the nomination papers solely due to  furnishing
of false/incomplete/blank  information  in  the  affidavits  signed  by  the
candidates. In succinct, they put forth the argument that they do  not  have
any latitude for rejecting the  nomination  papers  in  view  of  the  above
mentioned judgment.  However, learned counsel for  the  Election  Commission
of India made an assertion that  the  Election  Commission  too  is  of  the
opinion that incomplete nomination  papers  must  be  rejected.  Hence,  the
Election Commission of India sought for clarification in that regard.


Stand of the Union of India:


The Union of India also put forth the similar contention as  raised  by  the
Election Commission.  Interestingly, the Union of India also raised a  query
as to how this Court will be justified in  accepting  the  nomination  paper
with false  information  but  rejecting  the  nomination  paper  for  filing
affidavit with particulars  left  blank  and  hence  prayed  that  both  the
abovesaid situations must be treated at par.


Discussion:


12)    Both  the  petitioner-organisation  and  the  respondent/UOI   sought
divergent remedies against the same situation viz.,  wherein  the  affidavit
filed by the candidate stating the information  given  as  correct  but  the
particulars of the same are  left  blank.   The  petitioner-organisation  is
seeking for rejection of nomination paper in such a  situation  whereas  the
Union of India is  pleading  for  treating  it  at  par  with  filing  false
affidavit  and  to  prosecute  the  candidate  under  Section  125A  of  the
Representation of the People Act, 1951 (in short ‘the RP Act’).


13)   In order to appreciate the issue involved, it is  desirable  to  refer
the relevant provisions of the RP Act.  Sections 33A, 36 and 125A of the  RP
Act read as under:


           “33A. Right to information.—(1) A candidate  shall,  apart  from
           any information which he is required to furnish, under this  Act
           or the rules made thereunder, in his nomination paper  delivered
           under  sub-section  (1)  of  section  33,   also   furnish   the
           information as to whether –


           (i)   he is accused of any offence punishable with  imprisonment
           for two years or more in a pending case in which  a  charge  has
           been framed by the court of competent jurisdiction;


            (ii) he has  been  convicted  of  an  offence  [other  than  any
        offence referred to  in  sub-section  (1)  or  sub-section  (2),  or
        covered  in  sub-section  (3),  of  section  8]  and  sentenced   to
        imprisonment for one year or more.


           (2) The candidate or his proposer, as the case may be, shall, at
           the time of delivering to the returning officer  the  nomination
           paper under sub-section (1) of section 33, also deliver  to  him
           an affidavit  sworn  by  the  candidate  in  a  prescribed  form
           veryfying the information specified in sub-section (1).


           (3) The returning officer shall, as soon as  may  be  after  the
           furnishing of information to him under sub-section (1),  display
           the aforesaid information by affixing a copy of  the  affidavit,
           delivered under sub-section (2), at a conspicuous place  at  his
           office for  the  information  of  the  electors  relating  to  a
           constituency for which the nomination paper is delivered.


           36. Scrutiny of  nomination.—(1)  On  the  date  fixed  for  the
           scrutiny of nominations under section 30, the candidates,  their
           election agents, one proposer of each candidate, and  one  other
           person duly authorized in writing  by  each  candidate,  but  no
           other person, may attend at such time and place as the returning
           officer may appoint; and the returning officer shall  give  them
           all reasonable facilities for examining the nomination papers of
           all candidates which have been delivered within the time and  in
           the manner laid down in section 33.


           (2) The returning officer  shall  then  examine  the  nomination
           papers and shall decide all objections which may be made to  any
           nomination and may, either on  such  objection  or  on  his  own
           motion, after  such  summary  inquiry,  if  any,  as  he  thinks
           necessary,  reject  any  nomination  on  any  of  the  following
           grounds:—


           (a) that on the date fixed for the scrutiny of  nominations  the
           candidate either is not qualified or is disqualified  for  being
           chosen to fill the seat under any of  the  following  provisions
           that may be applicable, namely: Articles 84, 102, 173 and 191,


                 Part II of  this  Act,  and  sections  4  and  14  of  the
           Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 (20 of 1963); or


           (b) that there has been a failure to  comply  with  any  of  the
           provisions of section 33 or section 34 ; or


           (c) that the signature of the candidate or the proposer  on  the
           nomination paper is not genuine.


           (3) Nothing contained in clause (b) or clause (c) of sub-section
           (2) shall be deemed to authorize the rejection of the nomination
           of any candidate on the ground of any irregularity in respect of
           a nomination paper, if the candidate has been duly nominated  by
           means of  another  nomination  paper  in  respect  of  which  no
           irregularity has been committed.


           (4) The returning officer shall not reject any nomination  paper
           on the ground of any  defect  which  is  not  of  a  substantial
           character.


           (5) The returning officer shall hold the scrutiny  on  the  date
           appointed in this behalf under clause  (b)  of  section  30  and
           shall not allow any adjournment of the proceedings  except  when
           such proceedings are interrupted or obstructed by riot  or  open
           violence or by causes beyond his control:


           Provided that in case an objection is raised  by  the  returning
           officer or is made by any other person the  candidate  concerned
           may be allowed time to rebut it not later than the next day  but
           one following the date fixed for  scrutiny,  and  the  returning
           officer shall record his decision  on  the  date  to  which  the
           proceedings have been adjourned.


           (6) The returning officer shall endorse on each nomination paper
           his decision  accepting  or  rejecting  the  same  and,  if  the
           nomination paper is rejected, shall record in  writing  a  brief
           statement, of his reasons for such rejection.


           (7) For the purposes of this section, a  certified  copy  of  an
           entry in the electoral roll for the time being  in  force  of  a
           constituency shall be conclusive evidence of the fact  that  the
           person referred  to  in  that  entry  is  an  elector  for  that
           constituency, unless it is  proved  that  he  is  subject  to  a
           disqualification mentioned in section 16 of  the  Representation
           of the People Act, 1950 (43 of 1950).


           (8) Immediately  after  all  the  nomination  papers  have  been
           scrutinized and decisions accepting or rejecting the  same  have
           been recorded, the returning officer shall  prepare  a  list  of
           validly nominated candidates, that is to say,  candidates  whose
           nominations have been found valid, and affix it  to  his  notice
           board.






           125A. Penalty for filing false affidavit, etc.—A  candidate  who
           himself or through his proposer, with intent to be elected in an
           election,-


           (i) fails to furnish information relating to sub-section (1)  of
           section 33A; or


           (ii) gives false information which he knows  or  has  reason  to
           believe to be false; or


           (iii)  conceals  any  information,  in  his   nomination   paper
           delivered  under  sub-section  (1)  of  section  33  or  in  his
           affidavit which is required to be  delivered  under  sub-section
           (2) of section 33A, as the case may be,  shall,  notwithstanding
           anything contained in any other law for the time being in force,
           be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may  extend  to
           six months, or with fine, or with both.”


14)   In view of the above, the power to reject the nomination paper by  the
Returning Officer on the instance of candidate  filing  the  affidavit  with
particulars left blank can be derived from the reasoning  of  a  three-Judge
Bench of this Court in
Shaligram Shrivastava vs. Naresh Singh  Patel  (2003) 2 SCC 176. 
In the aforesaid case, the nomination paper of  a  candidate  got
rejected at the time of scrutiny under Section 36(2) of the RP  Act  on  the
ground that he had not filled up the proforma  prescribed  by  the  Election
Commission wherein the candidate was required to state whether he  had  been
convicted or not for any offence mentioned in Section 8 of the  RP  Act.  In
actual, the candidate therein  had  filed  an  affidavit  stating  that  the
information given in the proforma was correct but the  proforma  itself  was
left blank.
The candidate therein coincidentally  raised  somewhat  similar
contention as pleaded by the  Union  of  India  in  the  present  case.  The
candidate pleaded that his nomination paper could not  be  rejected  on  the
ground that he had not filled up  the  proforma  prescribed  since  no  such
proforma was statutorily provided under the provisions of the Act  or  under
the rules framed there under. It was contended that the Commission could  not
legislate to prescribe a proforma; at best  it  can  only  be  an  executive
instruction of the Election Commission whereas  the  petitioner  had  filled
the proforma prescribed under the Rules,  which  did  not  suffer  from  any
defect.


15)   Although, the grounds of contention may not be exactly similar to  the
case on hand but the reasoning rendered in that verdict  will  come  in  aid
for arriving at a decision in the given  case.  In  order  to  arrive  at  a
conclusion in that case, this Court traversed through the  objective  behind
filing the proforma. The proforma mandated in that case was required  to  be
filed as to the necessary  and  relevant  information  with  regard  to  the
candidate in the light of Section 8 of the RP Act. This Court  further  held
that at the time of scrutiny, the Returning Officer is entitled  to  satisfy
himself whether the candidate is qualified and not disqualified, hence,  the
Returning Officer was authorized to seek such information  to  be  furnished
at the time or before scrutiny. It was further held that  if  the  candidate
fails to furnish such information and also absents himself at  the  time  of
the scrutiny of the nomination papers,  then  he  is  obviously  avoiding  a
statutory inquiry being conducted by the  Returning  Officer  under  Section
36(2) of the RP Act relating to his being not qualified or  disqualified  in
the light of Section 8 of the RP Act. It is bound to result in defect  of  a
substantial character in the nomination. This Court further held as  under:-



      “17. In the case in hand the candidate  had  failed  to  furnish  such
      information as sought on the pro forma  given  to  him  and  had  also
      failed to be present personally or through his representative  at  the
      time of scrutiny. The statutory duty/power of  Returning  Officer  for
      holding proper scrutiny of nomination paper was rendered nugatory.  No
      scrutiny of the nomination paper could be made under Section 36(2)  of
      the Act in the light of Section 8 of the Act.  It  certainly  rendered
      the nomination paper suffering from defect  of  substantial  character
      and the Returning Officer was  within  his  rights  in  rejecting  the
      same.”


16)   It is clear that the Returning Officers derive  the  power  to  reject
the nomination papers on the ground that the contents to be  filled  in  the
affidavits are essential to effectuate the intent of the provisions  of  the
RP Act and as a consequence, leaving the affidavit blank will in  fact  make
it impossible for the Returning Officer to verify whether the  candidate  is
qualified or disqualified which indeed  will  frustrate  the  object  behind
filing the same. In concise, this Court in Shaligram (supra)  evaluated  the
purpose behind filing the proforma for advancing latitude to  the  Returning
Officers to reject the nomination papers.


17)   In the light of the above reasoning, now let us assess  the  facts  of
the given case. In Association for Democratic Reforms  (supra),  this  Court
arrived at a decision that the members of a  democratic  society  should  be
sufficiently  informed  so  that  they  may  influence   intelligently   the
decisions which may affect themselves and it would  include  their  decision
of casting votes in favour of a particular  candidate.  This  Court  further
held that if there was a disclosure  by  a  candidate  with  regard  to  his
criminal antecedents, assets and liabilities and educational  qualification,
then it would strengthen  the  voters  in  taking  appropriate  decision  of
casting their votes. This Court further stated as under:-


         “38. If right to telecast and right to  view  to  sport  games  and
         right to impart such information  is  considered  to  be  part  and
         parcel of Article 19(1)(a), we fail to understand why the right  of
         a citizen/voter - a little man - to know about the  antecedents  of
         his candidate cannot be  held  to  be  a  fundamental  right  under
         Article 19(1)(a). In our view,  democracy  cannot  survive  without
         free and fair election, without free and  fairly  informed  voters.
         Votes cast by uninformed voters in favour of X or Y candidate would
         be meaningless. As  stated  in  the  aforesaid  passage,  one-sided
         information, disinformation,  misinformation  and  non-information,
         all equally create an uninformed citizenry, which makes democracy a
         farce. Therefore, casting of vote by a misinformed and non-informed
         voter or a voter having one-sided  information  only  is  bound  to
         affect the democracy seriously. Freedom of  speech  and  expression
         includes right to impart and receive  information,  which  includes
         freedom to hold opinions. Entertainment is implied  in  freedom  of
         'speech and expression' and there is no reason to hold that freedom
         of speech and expression would not  cover  right  to  get  material
         information with regard to a candidate who is  contesting  election
         for a post which is of utmost importance in the democracy.


            46. …4. To maintain the purity of elections and in particular to
         bring transparency in the process of election, the  Commission  can
         ask the candidates about the expenditure incurred by the  political
         parties and this transparency in  the  process  of  election  would
         include transparency of a  candidate  who  seeks  election  or  re-
         election. In a democracy, the electoral  process  has  a  strategic
         role. The little man of this country would  have  basic  elementary
         right to know full particulars of a candidate who is  to  represent
         him in Parliament where laws to bind his liberty and  property  may
         be enacted.


         …7. Under our Constitution, Article 19(1)(a) provides  for  freedom
         of speech and expression. Voters's speech or expression in case  of
         election would include casting of votes,  that  is  to  say,  voter
         speaks  out  or  expresses  by  casting  vote.  For  this  purpose,
         information about the candidate to be selected is a  must.  Voter's
         (little man-citizen's) right to know antecedents including criminal
         past of his candidate contesting election for MP  or  MLA  is  much
         more fundamental and basic for survival of  democracy.  The  little
         man may think over  before  making  his  choice  of  electing  law-
         breakers as law-makers.”


18)   Thus, this Court held that a voter has the elementary  right  to  know
full particulars of a candidate who is to represent him  in  the  Parliament
and such right to get information is universally  recognized  natural  right
flowing from the concept of democracy and is an  integral  part  of  Article
19(1)(a) of the Constitution. It was further held that  the  voter's  speech
or expression in case of election would include casting of  votes,  that  is
to say, voter speaks out or expresses by casting  vote.  For  this  purpose,
information about  the  candidate  to  be  selected  is  a  must.  Thus,  in
unequivocal terms, it is recognized that the citizen’s right to know of  the
candidate who represents him in the Parliament will constitute  an  integral
part of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and any act, which  is
derogative of the fundamental rights is at the very outset ultra vires.


19)   With this background, Section 33A of the RP Act was enacted by Act  72
of 2002 with effect from 24.08.2002. Thus, the purpose  of  the  Act  72  of
2002 was to effectuate the right contemplated in Association for  Democratic
Reforms (supra). However,  the  legislators  did  not  incorporate  all  the
suggestions as directed by this Court in the above case  but  for  mandating
all the candidates to disclose the criminal antecedents  under  Section  33A
by filing an affidavit as prescribed along with the nomination  paper  filed
under Section 33(1) of the RP Act so that the citizens must be aware of  the
criminal antecedents  of  the  candidate  before  they  can  exercise  their
freedom of choice by casting of votes as guaranteed under  the  Constitution
of India. As a result, at present, every candidate is obligated to  file  an
affidavit  with  relevant  information  with  regard   to   their   criminal
antecedents, assets and liabilities and educational qualifications.


20) Let us now test  whether  the  filing  of  affidavit  stating  that  the
information given in the affidavit  is  correct  but  leaving  the  contents
blank would fulfill the objective behind filing the same. The reply to  this
question is a clear denial. The ultimate  purpose  of  filing  of  affidavit
along with the nomination paper is to effectuate the  fundamental  right  of
the citizen under  Article  19(1)(a)  of  the  Constitution  of  India.  The
citizens are required to have the  necessary  information  at  the  time  of
filing of the nomination paper in order to make a choice  of  their  voting.
When a candidate files an affidavit with blank particulars, it  renders  the
affidavit itself nugatory.


21)   For that purpose,  the  Returning  Officer  can  very  well  compel  a
candidate to furnish information relevant on the date of scrutiny.  We  were
appraised that the Election Commission already has a standard  draft  format
for reminding the candidates to file an affidavit as stipulated. We  are  of
the opinion that along with the above, another clause may  be  inserted  for
reminding the candidates to fill the blanks with  the  relevant  information
thereby conveying the message that no affidavit with blank particulars  will
be entertained. We reiterate that it is the duty of  the  Returning  Officer
to check whatever the information required is fully furnished  at  the  time
of filing of affidavit with the nomination paper since such  information  is
very vital for giving effect to the ‘right to know’ of the  citizens.  If  a
candidate fails to fill the blanks even after the reminder by the  Returning
Officer, the nomination paper is fit to be rejected. We do  comprehend  that
the power of Returning Officer  to  reject  the  nomination  paper  must  be
exercised very sparingly but the bar should not be laid  so  high  that  the
justice itself is prejudiced.


22)   We also clarify to the extent that in our coherent opinion  the  above
power of rejection by the Returning Officer is not  barred  by  Para  73  of
People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) (supra) which reads as under:-


      “73. While no exception can be taken to the  insistence  of  affidavit
      with regard to the matters specified  in  the  judgment  in  Assn  for
      Democratic Reforms case, the direction to reject the nomination  paper
      for furnishing wrong information or  concealing  material  information
      and providing for a summary enquiry at the time  of  scrutiny  of  the
      nominations,  cannot  be  justified.  In  the  case  of   assets   and
      liabilities, it would be very difficult for the Returning  Officer  to
      consider  the  truth  or  otherwise  of  the  details  furnished  with
      reference to the 'documentary proof'. Very often, in such matters  the
      documentary proof may not be clinching and the candidate concerned may
      be handicapped to rebut the allegation then and there.  If  sufficient
      time is provided, he may be able to produce proof  to  contradict  the
      objector's version. It is true that the aforesaid directions issued by
      the Election Commission are not under challenge but at the  same  time
      prima facie it appears that the Election  Commission  is  required  to
      revise its instructions in the light of directions issued in Assn  for
      Democratic Reforms case and as provided under  the  Representation  of
      the People Act and its third Amendment.”


23)   The aforesaid paragraph, no  doubt,  stresses  on  the  importance  of
filing of affidavit, however,  opines  that  the  direction  to  reject  the
nomination paper for furnishing wrong  information  or  concealing  material
information and providing for a summary inquiry at the time of  scrutiny  of
the nominations cannot be justified since in such  matters  the  documentary
proof may not be clinching and the candidate concerned  may  be  handicapped
to rebut the allegation then and there. This Court was of the  opinion  that
if sufficient time is provided, the  candidate  may  be  in  a  position  to
produce proof to  contradict  the  objector's  version.  The  object  behind
penning down the aforesaid reasoning is  to  accommodate  genuine  situation
where the candidate is trapped by false allegations and is unable  to  rebut
the allegation within a short  time.  Para  73  of  the  aforesaid  judgment
nowhere contemplates a situation where it  bars  the  Returning  Officer  to
reject the nomination paper on account of filing affidavit with  particulars
left blank. Therefore, we hereby clarify that the above said paragraph  will
not come in the way of the Returning Officer to reject the nomination  paper
if the said affidavit is filed with blank columns. The candidate  must  take
the minimum effort to explicitly remark as  ‘NIL’  or  ‘Not  Applicable’  or
‘Not known’ in the columns and not to leave the  particulars  blank,  if  he
desires that his nomination paper be accepted by the Returning Officer.


24)   At this juncture, it is vital to refer to Section 125A of the RP  Act.
As an outcome, the act of failure on the part of the  candidate  to  furnish
relevant information, as mandated by Section 33A of the RP Act, will  result
in prosecution of the candidate.  Hence,  filing  of  affidavit  with  blank
space will be directly hit by Section 125A(i) of the  RP  Act.  However,  as
the nomination paper itself is rejected by the Returning  officer,  we  find
no reason why the candidate must again be penalized  for  the  same  act  by
prosecuting him/her.


25)   If we accept the contention  raised  by  Union  of  India,  viz.,  the
candidate who has filed an affidavit with false information as well  as  the
candidate who has filed an affidavit with particulars left blank  should  be
treated at par, it will result in breach  of  fundamental  right  guaranteed
under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, viz., ‘right to know’, which  is
inclusive of freedom of speech and expression as interpreted in  Association
for Democratic Reforms (supra).


26)   In succinct, if the Election Commission accepts the nomination  papers
in spite of blank particulars in the affidavits, it  will  directly  violate
the fundamental right of the  citizen  to  know  the  criminal  antecedents,
assets and liabilities  and  educational  qualification  of  the  candidate.
Therefore, accepting affidavit with blank  particulars  from  the  candidate
will rescind the verdict in  Association  for  Democratic  Reforms  (supra).
Further, the subsequent act  of  prosecuting  the  candidate  under  Section
125A(i) will bear no significance as far as the breach of fundamental  right
of the citizen is concerned. For the aforesaid reasons,  we  are  unable  to
accept the contention of the Union of India.


27)   What emerges from the above discussion can be summarized in  the  form
of following directions:


(i)   The voter has the elementary right  to  know  full  particulars  of  a
candidate who is to represent him  in  the  Parliament/Assemblies  and  such
right to get information is universally recognized. Thus, it  is  held  that
right to know about the candidate  is  a  natural  right  flowing  from  the
concept of democracy and is an integral part  of  Article  19(1)(a)  of  the
Constitution.


(ii)  The ultimate purpose of filing of affidavit along with the  nomination
paper is to effectuate the fundamental right of the citizens  under  Article
19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The citizens  are  supposed  to  have
the necessary information at the time of filing of nomination paper and  for
that purpose, the Returning Officer can very  well  compel  a  candidate  to
furnish the relevant information.


(iii) Filing of affidavit with blank particulars will render  the  affidavit
nugatory.


(iv)  It is  the  duty  of  the  Returning  Officer  to  check  whether  the
information required is fully furnished at the time of filing  of  affidavit
with the nomination paper since such information is very  vital  for  giving
effect to the ‘right to know’ of the citizens. If a candidate fails to  fill
the blanks even after the reminder by the Returning Officer, the  nomination
paper is fit to be rejected. We do comprehend that the  power  of  Returning
Officer to reject the nomination paper must be exercised very sparingly  but
the bar should not be laid so high that the justice itself is prejudiced.


(v)   We clarify to the extent that Para 73  of  People’s  Union  for  Civil
Liberties case (supra) will not come in the way of the Returning Officer  to
reject the nomination paper when affidavit is filed with blank particulars.


(vi)  The candidate must take the minimum effort  to  explicitly  remark  as
‘NIL’ or ‘Not Applicable’ or ‘Not known’ in the columns  and  not  to  leave
the particulars blank.


(vii) Filing of affidavit with  blanks  will  be  directly  hit  by  Section
125A(i) of the RP Act However, as the nomination paper  itself  is  rejected
by the Returning Officer, we find no reason why the candidate must be  again
penalized for the same act by prosecuting him/her.


 28)   The Writ Petition is disposed of with the above directions.


                                  ……….…………………………CJI.


                                       (P. SATHASIVAM)














                                    ………….…………………………J.


                                      (RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI)




                                  ………….…………………………J.


                                      (RANJAN GOGOI)



NEW DELHI;
SEPTEMBER 13, 2013.

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