In a letter to the Election Commission, the National Election Watch has sought to know why there is no background declaration by the candidates contesting for the office of President of India [ Images ]. 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 former chief election commissioners Gopalaswami N and T S Krishnamurty, who believe that it should be mandatory for candidates to file affidavits about their background.
A Supreme Court judgment in 2003 had directed the Election Commission to get background information on criminal records, assets, liabilities, education etc on an affidavit of all candidates contesting parliament or legislative assembly elections.
Most state election commissions implemented similar rules for panchayat and corporation polls.
The candidates for the President's post don't need to file any such affidavit. The letter sent o the EC demands that this rule should be enforced this year for aspirants to the posts of the president and vice president. The EC is yet to take a decision on the issue.
NEW has made the following arguments in its letter:
The Supreme Court Judgment 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 aforementioned judgment of the Supreme Court requires the implementation of the affidavits for all candidates contesting presidential and vice-presidential elections also.
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 it is right now the only election 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.
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 appropriate orders for its implementation.
M NGopalaswamy says, "in my view, the EC should extend this requirement to the elections to the office of the president and vice president 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 EC 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. Moreover, the Election Commission can extend the logic of the SC order under its inherent powers to require these candidates to file the affidavits in the interest of free and fair elections."