Knowing about a candidate is the voter’s natural right in a democracy, and non- disclosure of information by a contestant in his/her affidavit, leaving the relevant columns blank, will result in rejection of the nomination by the Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

(At present, the EC has no power to reject nominations if candidates either leave some columns blank or give false information. However, a case can be registered against them under the Indian Penal Code for providing false information.)

Allowing a writ petition by Resurgence India, a Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Desai and Ranjan Gogoi said: “The voter has the elementary right to know full particulars of a candidate who is to represent him in Parliament/Assemblies and such right to get information is universally recognised.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam said: “The ultimate purpose of filing an affidavit along with the nomination paper is to effectuate the fundamental right of the citizens under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution. The Returning Officer could very well compel a candidate to furnish the relevant information.

“Leaving the affidavit blank will in fact make it impossible for the Returning Officer to verify whether the candidate is qualified or disqualified which will indeed frustrate the object behind filing the same,” the Bench said.

“If a candidate fails to fill the blanks even after a 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 justice itself is prejudiced.”

The candidate must take the minimum effort to explicitly mention ‘NIL’ or ‘Not Applicable’ or ‘Not known’ in the columns,” and should not leave them blank. “Filing of affidavit with blanks will be directly hit by Section 125 A (i) of the Representation of the People Act. However, as the nomination itself is rejected by the Returning Officer, we find no reason why the candidate must again be penalised for the same act by prosecuting him/her,” the Bench said.

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