Declaration of criminal past must in polls: SC

SansadTV Bureau

supreme_courtSupreme Court on Thursday held that the election of a candidate, who has concealed his or her criminal antecedents during nomination process, should be declared null and void.

The suppression of criminal antecedents, especially relating to heinous crimes, by a candidate during nomination deprives voters to make an informed choice and creates impediments in the free exercise of electoral right. Such an election is liable to be rejected, the apex court ruled.

The judgement was delivered in a case relating to non-disclosure of full particulars of criminal cases pending against a candidate, Krishnamoorthy, who was elected as the President of Thekampatti Panchayat, Mettupalayam Taluk, Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu in 2006.

Krishnamoorthy’s election was challenged on the sole ground that he had filed a false declaration suppressing details of the criminal cases pending trial against him and therefore his nomination ought to have been rejected by the Returning Officer.

“Disclosure of criminal antecedents of a candidate, especially pertaining to heinous or serious offence or offences relating to corruption or moral turpitude at the time of filing of nomination paper as mandated by law, is a categorical imperative.

“When there is non-disclosure of the offences pertaining to the areas mentioned in the preceding clause, it creates an impediment in the free exercise of electoral right,” a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said.

The bench held that non-disclosure of criminal antecedents on part of a candidate would amount to “undue influence” and therefore the election is to be declared null and void by the Election Tribunal under Section 100(1)(b) of the Representation of the People Act,1951.

“Concealment or suppression of this nature deprives the voters to make an informed and advised choice, as a consequence of which it would come within the compartment of direct or indirect interference or attempt to interfere with the free exercise of the right to vote by the electorate, on the part of the candidate,” the bench said.

“A voter has a fundamental right to know about the candidates contesting the elections as that is essential and a necessary concomitant for a free and fair election,” the bench said.

It said the voter is entitled to make an informed choice after knowing the antecedents of a candidate, and any concealment amounts to “undue influence” as per Section 123(2) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

Holding that in a constitutional democracy, any kind of criminalisation of politics was “extremely lamentable”, the apex court said: “It is an anathema to the sanctity of democracy. Criminalisation creates a concavity in the heart of democracy and has the potentiality to paralyse, comatose and strangulate the purity of the system.”

“Criminalisation of politics is absolutely unacceptable. Corruption in public life is indubitably depreciable. The citizenry has been compelled to stand as a silent, deaf and mute spectator to the corruption, either being helpless or being resigned to fate,” it said.