Somewhere in Maharashtra....

The upcoming zilla parishad elections in Maharashtra’s four districts of Washim, Akola , Dhule and Nandurbar and the municipal corporations polls in Dhule and Ahmednagar will perhaps become the first in the country where candidates will be required to disclose their and their family’s sources of income.

The Maharashtra state election commission brought in the new rule on August 13 following a Supreme Court directive that aims at bringing transparency in the election process. Now, a candidate who wishes to contest local body elections in Maharashtra will have to disclose his and his family’s sources of income as part of the election affidavit that he files with SEC.

In February, a Supreme Court bench led by Justice J Chelameswar said that voters have a fundamental right to know all the relevant information about the candidates including their sources of income under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. The court further added that to enforce a citizen’s fundamental right, no statutory sanction from the government or Parliament is needed. The judgment came after the court heard a petition filed by NGO Lok Prahari, which highlighted the often-seen exponential rise in the assets of politicians in five years—between two successive elections.

“So far, a candidate would only have to mention his and family’s assets and liabilities, besides personal details like qualification and police cases, if any. But now on, information regarding the source of income for the last three years, details of income tax returns and even PAN card number will have to be mentioned in the affidavit,” said a senior SEC official.

Experts said that in the absence of the source of income of the candidate, there is no way to find out how his assets or liabilities have risen or fallen. They said that the new rule will give citizens a complete picture. An affidavit filed by any candidate is put in the public domain so that voters can make an informed choice during elections.

The information will have to given in a prescribed format and all income sources—farming, employment, business or rent generated from properties, among others—will have to be mentioned, said officials.

Citizens welcomed the addition to the affidavit.

During the hearing, the Central Board of Direct Taxes, in an affidavit, had informed the SC that 98 MLAs and seven Lok Sabha MPs are under investigation for prima facie discrepancies in their assets and declared sources of income. “Investigation into the assets of 42 MLAs and 9 Rajya Sabha MPs is still pending. However, no discrepancy was found in the value of assets and the declared/source of income of 117 MLAs, 19 Lok Sabha MPs and two Rajya Sabha MPs,” it had said.

“Their assets and sources of income are required to be continuously monitored to maintain the purity of the electoral process and integrity of the democratic structure of this country,” the SC had told the government in its judgment.

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