The Election Commission on Tuesday decided that it would take cognisance of complaints of false affidavits submitted by candidates and refer them to the probe agencies concerned on a case-to-case basis.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the full Commission, comprising Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, two Election Commissioners, Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra, and other senior officials.
“…in pursuit of a level playing field, it will take cognisance of complaints, which indicate serious omission on the part of the candidate, and refer such matters to the relevant investigating authorities on a case-to-case basis,” said the EC.
As per the existing provision, individuals file such complaints in the competent court under Section 125A of the Representation of the People Act.
Observing that false affidavits filed by some candidates along with their nominations adversely affected the rights of voters and also impinged on the purity of electoral process, the EC took note of the Supreme Court judgments on the issue.
In People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, the Supreme Court said the foundation of a healthy democracy was to have well-informed citizens-voters.
“A little man — a citizen — a voter is the master of his vote. He must have necessary information so that he can intelligently decide in favour of a candidate who satisfies his criterion of being elected as an MP or MLA,” observed the court.
The voter has a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution to know about the candidates at an election. The genesis of the disclosure requirements, now incorporated in Form 26, appended to the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, was the case of Union of India v. Association of Democratic Reforms.
In the affidavit, a candidate discloses (i) criminal antecedents; (ii) assets and liabilities; and (iii) educational qualifications.
“Subsequently, the commission in 2013 decided that the assets and liabilities of the candidates, as filed in their affidavits, would be verified by the Central Board of Direct Taxes,” the EC said.
The commission said filing of false affidavits by candidates during the nomination process, in terms of false or incomplete information, was a key challenge as it undermined the rights of voters to be fully informed about their political representatives.
“Furnishing false information in election affidavits is a devious design to defeat the right of the voter to be informed and transparency in elections,” said the EC.