Non-disclosure by a candidate of the assets and property owned by his or her spouse and children while filing nomination for an election is a ground for disqualification, the Supreme Court has held.
A Bench of Justices S.S. Nijjar and A.K. Sikri said it was not possible to reject a nomination at the time of filing on the ground that the candidate had suppressed information or given false information. However, if it was found after a proper enquiry that the candidate had failed to disclose information, non-disclosure would be a ground for disqualification.
“Otherwise, it would be an anomalous situation that even when criminal proceedings under Section 125A of the Representation of the People Act can be initiated and the selected candidate is criminally prosecuted and convicted, the result of his election cannot be questioned,” the Bench said. “This cannot be countenanced.”
In the instant case, Kisan Shankar Kathore was elected from Ambernath in Thane in Maharashtra. Arun Dattatray Sawant, a voter, challenged his election alleging that the appellant suppressed information on his wife’s assets as well as non-payment of electricity bill. The Bombay High Court held that non-disclosure had materially affected the election and held his election void. The present appeal is directed against this judgment.
Quoting an earlier verdict, the Bench said, “It was incumbent upon every candidate, who is contesting an election, to give information about his assets and other affairs, requirement of which is an essential part of fair and free elections. Every voter has a right to know about these details and such a requirement is also covered by freedom of speech granted under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution.”
The Bench added, “When the information is given by a candidate in the affidavit filed along with the nomination paper and objections are raised thereto, questioning the correctness of the information or alleging that there is non-disclosure of certain important information, it may not be possible for the returning officer at that time to conduct a detailed examination. Summary enquiry may not suffice.”
However, the Bench said that when the court, acting on an election petition, gave a finding of fact that there was non-disclosure of information it would result in his/her election being declared void and dismissed the appeal by Mr. Kathore.