The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that suppression or non-disclosure of information about serious crimes by a candidate at the time of filing nomination interferes with the voters’ right to make an informed choice and the election of such a candidate is liable to be set aside.
When there is non-disclosure of the offences pertaining to heinous or serious offence or offences relating to corruption or moral turpitude at the time of filing of nomination paper, it creates an impediment in the free exercise of electoral right by a voter, said a bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C. Pant.
“As a candidate has the special knowledge of the pending cases against him where cognizance has been taken or charges have been framed and there is non-disclosure on his part, it would amount to undue influence. Therefore, election is to be declared null and void by the Election Tribunal under Section 100(1)(b) of the 1951 Act,” the court said.
“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,” Justice Misra said pronouncing the judgment.
Making it clear that disclosure of criminal antecedents by a candidate was a statutory obligation, the court said: “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.”
“The question whether it materially affects the election or not would not arise in a case of this nature,” said the court as it dismissed an appeal by Krishnamurthy who was elected as the president of Thekampatti panchayat in Mettupalayam taluka of Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore Oct 13, 2006. Krishnamurthy involved in eight cases relating to embezzlement.
The validity of Krishnamurthy’s election was challenged on the ground that he had filed a false declaration suppressing the details of criminal cases pending trial against him and, therefore, his nomination deserved to be rejected by the returning officer.
The Election Tribunal after examining all the material set aside his election holding that Krishnamurthy’s nomination papers should have been rejected and he could not have contested. It also ordered re-election for the post of the president of Thekampatti panchayat.
Hearing Krishnamurthy’s appeal, the Madras High Court agreed with the ultimate conclusion of the tribunal but for a different reason.
The apex court, while dismissing the appeal by Krishnamurthy, said: “Ex consequenti, the appeal, being sans substance, stands dismissed with costs, which is assessed at Rs.50,000.”