Candidates Contesting Elections Along With Their Assets Should Declare Dependents & Spouses Sources Of Income: SC
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court today “allowed” the prayers in a PIL filed by NGO Lok Prahari seeking steps to prevent MPs and MLAs from amassing disproportionate assets and to make it mandatory for not only candidates but their spouses and dependents also to reveal their source of income.
Justice J Chelameswar said “the prayers in the petition are allowed. Only those which require amendment of the law are not allowed as it is up to the Parliament to take a decision”.
The bench of justice J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer was pronouncing judgment on the public interest litigation filed by ‘Lok Prahari’ an NGO which fights against corruption, that sought effective measures to prevent politicians-MPs/MLAs from amassing disproportionate assets.It had also sought the court’s direction to politicians to disclose their source of income in their nomination papers/affidavits before returning officers. It also wanted revelation of the assets of the candidate’s spouses and dependents.
The bench which had on September 12 last year reserved judgment after extensive hearings, had during the hearing directed the Central Board of Direct Taxes to file affidavit as to what action had been taken against lawmakers whose assets jumped by oover 500 per cent after being elected and were suspected of amassing disproportionate wealth.
Though the bench on September 7 last year angrily rejected the first affidavit calling it vague, later the CBDT said it was investigating allegations that seven MPs and 98 MLAs a preliminary assessment of a further 42 MLAs was underway.Initially, 26 Lok Sabha MPs, 11 Rajya Sabha MPs and 257 MLAs whose names were handed over by Lok Prahari were probed.
The Centre had during the hearing assured the bench that it would amend within three months, Form 26 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, used by the candidates contesting assembly and Lok Sabha elections, to file affidavits along with nomination paper before the returning officers.
The amendment has been recommended by the Election Commission, following Lok Prahari’s PIL seeking information about the source of income of the candidates, their spouses, and dependents and to add fresh columns in the affidavit for it.
S.N.Shukla, the founder of Lok Prahari, who has been appearing in person in this case, has also sought a declaration whether the candidates or their spouses/dependents have any subsisting contracts with the government or a public company or any share or interest in a private company.
His other prayers included a direction to Parliament to amend the law to disqualify a lawmaker if he has a share or interest in a firm that enters into a business contract with the government or a public company.
Calling for quick action against MPs and MLAs possessing disproportionate assets, the bench had observed the government should notify special fast-track criminal courts to try MPs and MLAs in corruption cases and the judge should be directed to complete the trial in a time-bound manner.
Making stinging observations, Justice Chelameswar had wondered if the mercurial rise in the assets of politicians just within a span of five years between two successive elections, was a product of ineffective investigation or of some “immunity” provided to them.
“If an MLA’s or MP’s assets have seen a 10 time rise in 2019 from what he revealed in 2014 should you not conduct an inquiry into the very propriety of a person holding public office enjoying such phenomenal rise in his assets..The moment a candidate has shown 1,000% increase in his income in the past five years, please have a mechanism to conduct an enquiry,” Justice Chelameswar had asked the government.
“Income under each head should be probed. All these should be inquired. The public needs an answer. The people should get to know the state of affairs. It is not enough that a legislator discloses a legitimate source of income.It is important to inquire that how did the person get in that position to earn that income”, he had said .