In the backdrop of the Presidential election, the National Election Watch has sought to know as to why there is no background declaration by the people contesting for the office of President of India. This information has been sought by the National Election Watch in a letter written to the Election Commission of India.
This question has also been raised by Gopalaswami N (former CEC) and T S Krishnamurty (former CEC) who also agree that the filing of affidavit should be made mandatory on the lines of Supreme Court’s judgment.
The Supreme Court judgment of 2003 judgement directed the Election Commission of India to get background information on criminal records, assets, liabilities, education etc. on an affidavit of all candidates contesting parliament or legislative assembly elections. It also stated that all these candidates should give this declaration to the election commission on an affidavit. Following in the steps of Election commission of India, most State Election Commissions (SECs) also implemented it in the elections to local bodies(Panchayats and Municipal elections).
However, there is no such declaration in force for Presidential elections. Now a letter has been shot off to the ECI seeking it to enforce the same for candidates contesting for the offices of President and Vice-President starting with the ongoing elections. The Election Commission is yet to take a decision on the issue.
In its letter to the Election Commission, NEW has made the following arguments:
1. As per the Supreme Court Judgment 2003, it states that “The Election Commission is directed to call for information on affidavit by issuing necessary order in exercise of its power under Article 324 of the Constitution of India from each candidate seeking election to Parliament or a State Legislature as a necessary part of his nomination paper”.
As per Article 79 of the Constitution of India, the Parliament consists of the President and two Houses known as the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of the People (Lok Sabha). Thus the proper implementation of the afore mentioned judgment of the Supreme Court requires the implementation of the affidavits for all candidates contesting presidential and vice-presidential elections also.
2. The Supreme Court has also mentioned that this judgment has reached finality. And using the various arguments in the order, several other public bodies have implemented this order in their elections, e.g. in Panchayat and Municipal Body elections.
The office of the President is one of the most important positions in our country and theright now the only elections to a public office where the candidates are not required to submit self sworn affidavits on their background details at the time of filing their nominations.
3. The President is the head of the Union Executive. The implementation of the Supreme Court Judgment will bring about more transparency and will set a good example for others to follow. The Election Commission should take lead on this and issue the appropriate orders for its implementation.
M.N Gopalaswamy says, “in my view the EC should extend this requirement to the elections to the office of the President and Vice President of India as they are elected offices and it is in the fitness of things that all elected offices in the country, from the lowest level namely to the Panchayats to the highest namely to the President (and Vice President) of India ,are brought within the same discipline.”
T S Krishnamurthy says , “I agree with ECI that the SC judgement is not quite clear but in continuation of the SC order the Right to Information should extend to Presidential electors as well for the electors to know all about the candidates before exercising their votes This is more so as the party whip does not apply to this election. Morever, the Election Commission can extend the logic of the SC order under its inherent powers to require these candidates should file the affidavits in the interest of free & fair elections.”