Voters' right to know about the criminal, financial, and educational background of candidates contesting elections has been firmly established by the historic judgment of the Supreme Court on March 13, 2003 (in Writ Petitions No. 490, 509, & 515 of 2002) which has made it compulsory for candidates contesting elections to Parliament and State Assemblies to submit affidavits as an essential part of their nomination paper, containing information on the following five points:
- "Whether the candidate is convicted/acquitted/ discharged of any criminal offence in the past-if any, whether he is punished with imprisonment or fine?
- Prior to six months of filing of 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 cognizance is taken by the court of law. If so, the details thereof.
- The assets (immovable, movable, bank balances etc) of a candidate and of his/her spouse and that of dependants.
- Liabilities, if any, particularly whether there are any over dues of any public financial institution or government dues.
- The educational qualifications of the candidate."
The Election Commission (EC) has issued an Order dated March 27, 2003 implementing the above judgment. The EC's Order also says that in case any candidate does not submit the affidavit along with the nomination form, this "shall be considered to be violation of the Order of the Honorable Supreme Court and the nomination of the candidate concerned shall be liable to rejection by the Returning Officer at the time of scrutiny of nominations for such non-furnishing of the affidavit.
The EC has also issued another Order to the Chief Electoral Officers of all States and Union Territories, dated August 7, 2003, saying that "copies (of the affidavits) are also to be supplied freely and liberally to all other candidates, representatives to media, etc." EC's Order of August 7, 2003 further mentions that "the District Election Officers shall furnish copies of these papers to any one on request on payment of standard copying charges". In a subsequent order of April 01, 2004, the EC has prescribed "Rs.10/- as the fees for copy of one set of nomination paper and affidavits of a candidate." The EC has further said that "this fee may be obtained in cash, for convenience, against proper receipt." EC's order of April 01, 2004 also clarifies that "copies of nomination papers, affidavits, and copies of counter affidavits etc., should be supplied on demand to any individual, political party, organization, agencies etc. without any discrimination."
Every voter/citizen now has a right to know about the criminal, financial, and educational background of the candidates contesting elections to Parliament and the State Assemblies.
- This background is contained in the affidavit which has to be filed by every candidate along with the nomination form.
- Every voter/citizen has the right to obtain a copy of the affidavit filed by the candidate.
- Copies of affidavits can be obtained from the (a) Returning Officer of each constituency, or (b) District Election Officers which usually are the Collectors of each district.
- Copies of the affidavits filed by the candidates will be supplied to anyone and everyone without discrimination.
It is now up to the citizens/voters to get to know the background of candidates contesting elections and make an informed choice while casting their vote, so that democracy and quality of governance in the country can be improved
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