Poll aspirants must reveal income sources: SC

In a landmark verdict aimed at bringing more transparency and curbing money power in elections, the Supreme Court has ruled that a candidate would have to make public the source of his income along with that of his spouse and dependants.

Holding that voters have a fundamental right to know all the relevant information about the candidates, including their sources of income, a bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer directed the Centre to amend the Conduct of Election Rules and Form 26 to incorporate the provision on declaration of source of income. It also directed that the candidates would also have to provide information regarding contracts with any government agency or PSUs, either by them or spouse and dependants.

“The voter is entitled to have all relevant information about the candidates at an election. The information regarding the sources of income of the candidates and their associates would in our opinion, certainly help the voter to make an informed choice of the candidate to represent the constituency in the legislature. It is, therefore, a part of their fundamental right,” the bench said.

“The enforcement of such a fundamental right needs no statutory sanction. This court and the HCs are authorised by the Constitution to give directions to the state and its instrumentalities for enforcement of Fundamental Rights,” the SC said. The SC said the experience of the first 50 years of the functioning of democracy in the country disclosed some undesirable trends that have crept into its working and it was necessary to deal with it on urgent basis to maintain purity of the electoral process.

The bench also made it clear that non-disclosure of the informations by the candidates would constitute a corrupt practice falling under heading undue influence as defined under the Representation of People Act, and the election of the candidate could be quashed if elected.

Terming possession of disproportionate assets by MPs and MLAs as a “culpable offence”, the Supreme Court on Friday said such lawmakers must be disqualified as accumulation of wealth by elected representatives beyond known sources of income “paves way for the rule of mafia substituting the rule of law”.

A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer said “such people are enemies to all good governments” and they should be disqualified from being members of legislative bodies. It, however, put the ball in the Centre’s court to amend the law to allow disqualification on the grounds of amassing illicit wealth. “If assets of a legislators or his/her associates (spouse and dependant) increase without bearing any relationship to their known sources of income, the only logical inference that can be drawn is that there is some abuse of the legislator’s constitutional office,” said Justice Chelameswar, who wrote the judgment for the bench.

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