In a bid to tighten the screws on dishonest politicians who make a mockery of basic electoral decency, the Supreme Court on Friday ruled that candidates contesting polls are obliged to reveal not only the source of their income but also that of their wife and children, reported the Hindustan Times.
Under the current rules, candidates are only expected to disclose their assets and liabilities and those of their spouse and three dependents in a document called Form 26, when they file for nominations, but not the source of their income.
The Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Chelameswar, accepted the notion that the mere declaration of assets and liabilities aren’t enough. The source must also come under public scrutiny to ensure that the public can investigate and verify whether their properties were amassed legally or not. The petitioner, in this case, is Lok Prahari, a non-profit which claims to fight corruption.
Besides seeking an order from the apex court in this regard, the non-profit is also hoping for a ruling, which would compel the Centre to amend the law, whereby a lawmaker can suffer disqualification from office for holding shares or an interest in a business venture that enters into dealings with a government-run company. This is a sentiment that the Election Commission has echoed as well.
The poll body argued that this move would bring a greater deal of transparency to the election process, and sought the Parliament’s intervention in amending the Representation of People Act to punish those flouting this rule, and compelling candidates to disclose the source of income.
In a landmark 2003 judgement, the Supreme Court ruled that candidates contesting elections to both the parliament and legislative assembly must submit an affidavit at the time of their nomination listing out financial assets, educational qualifications and criminal record. Unfortunately, this hasn’t done much to improve transparency.
There are solutions in place to minimalise, if not eradicate, the effect of money power in politics. It begins with wholesale reform of the election finance system.