Supreme Court to examine whether ‘netas’ need to declare every offence
The court made the observation as it stayed the High Court order setting aside the election of Paswan, the Lok Sabha MP from Sasaram (reserved) constituency in Bihar, for “suppressing” details of criminal cases pending against him. Paswan had defeated then Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar in the 2014 general elections.
“We have to go in depth. It’s a serious issue. We have to see whether every offence or only serious offences are covered under the earlier judgement of the court,” a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and P C Pant said while admitting the case. Senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for Paswan said he had three cases against him, of which two cases have punishments of six months while the third one was for blocking of traffic in a protest.
He said that non-disclosure of such offences cannot be said to be amounting to “corrupt practices”. Senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan appearing for one Ganga Mishra said Paswan has declared the offence in his 2010 poll affidavit but did not do so in the 2014 general elections. He said that as per earlier judgement of the apex court, every individual contesting the election has to mandatorily declare all offences.
“The question here is that criminal cases are lodged against a politician for blocking the road in protest in which a chargesheet has been filed but charges are not framed. Can this suppression of facts by a politician during nomination deprived voters to make an informed choice,” the bench asked. “Does this non-disclosure of criminal antecedents on part of a candidate amount to exercise of ‘undue influence’ and does this concealment or suppression deprive the voters to make an informed and advised choice,” the bench said while posting the matter for listing in January.
The apex court had on February 5 last year held that the election of a candidate, who has concealed his or her criminal antecedents during nomination process, should be declared null and void.
In its earlier verdict, the apex court had 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”.