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Transparency in Candidate Disclosure


Recent developments in Indian electoral procedures include a Supreme Court ruling stating that candidates are not obligated to disclose every minor detail in their election affidavits unless it holds significant relevance. Additionally, the Election Commission of India (EC) has requested the Central Board of Direct Taxes to authenticate the income declaration made by the BJP nominee from Thiruvananthapuram.



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Mains Question:

How has the Supreme Court addressed concerns about candidates with serious criminal charges contesting elections? Can the reforms by the Law Commission and Election Commission help in addressing such concerns? (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act)- Important Sections in this Regard:

  • According to Section 33 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act) along with rule 4A of election regulations, all candidates contesting in elections must submit their nomination papers accompanied by an affidavit in a specified format.
  • In the case of Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) Vs Union of India (2002), the Supreme Court ruled that voters possess the right to be informed about a candidate’s criminal history, income, assets, educational qualifications, and those of their dependents.
  • As a result, Section 33A was added to the RP Act, necessitating the disclosure of criminal antecedents in the election affidavit.
  • Furthermore, Section 125A of the RP Act stipulates that failure to provide necessary information, furnishing false information, or concealing any details in the nomination papers or affidavit could lead to imprisonment for up to six months, a fine, or both.

Key Concerns:

  • In a recent instance, an independent candidate from Arunachal Pradesh omitted to declare three vehicles as assets in his election affidavit during the 2019 Assembly election. Consequently, the Gauhati High Court nullified his election.
  • However, the Supreme Court overturned this ruling, asserting that failure to disclose immaterial or non-substantial information cannot be construed as an attempt to unduly influence voters.
  • In the case of the BJP nominee from Thiruvananthapuram, the allegation revolves around the purported concealment of income and significant assets in his election affidavit, potentially influencing voter decisions.

Candidates with Severe Criminal Charges:

  • A more pressing issue pertains to candidates with severe criminal charges participating in elections. Some candidates evaded the requirements of rule 4A by leaving certain sections blank or submitting incomplete affidavits.
  • This issue necessitated a court order in Resurgence India Vs EC (2013) to ensure comprehensive completion of all sections. According to a report by ADR, 19% of candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha election faced charges of rape, murder, or kidnapping.
  • The Law Commission, in its 244th report titled ‘Electoral Disqualifications’ (2014), and the Election Commission (EC), in its memorandum on ‘Electoral reforms’ submitted in 2016, put forward specific recommendations.
    • Firstly, they proposed that a conviction for submitting a false affidavit should result in a minimum punishment of two years imprisonment and be grounds for disqualification.
    • Secondly, they suggested that trials in such cases should be expedited, conducted on a day-to-day basis.
    • Lastly, individuals charged with offenses punishable by imprisonment of at least five years should be barred from contesting in elections if the case is filed at least six months prior to the relevant election.
  • In the case of Public Interest Foundation Vs Union of India (2018), the Supreme Court mandated that candidates and political parties must issue a declaration regarding their criminal history at least three times before the election, through advertisements in local newspapers and electronic media.


Although there is concern that prohibiting candidates facing chargesheets from contesting elections might be exploited by incumbent parties, other recommendations, such as enhancing penalties for submitting false affidavits and making it a disqualification criterion, should be put into effect. The Supreme Court’s directive to widely publicize criminal records should also be rigorously enforced. This would empower voters to make informed decisions when casting their votes.


May 2024