An apex court bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that the returning officer had the power to reject the nomination papers on the grounds that the affidavit disclosing his assets and his criminal antecedents, if any, was not complete or not in proper form.
Filing of affidavit, aimed to furnish details of assets and criminal antecedents, if any, with blank particulars will render the affidavit nugatory, the court said.
The court judgment came on the plea by NGO Resurgent India which contended that a large number of candidates were leaving the columns concerning their assets or criminal antecedents, if any, blank.
"Filing of affidavit with blanks will be directly hit by Section 125 A(i) of the Representation of People (RP) Act," the court said.
"However, as the nomination paper itself is rejected by the returning officer, we find no reason why the candidate must be again penalised for the same act by prosecuting him/her," the court said.
Section 125 A of the RP Act provides for penalty for filing false affidavit.
"The voter has the elementary right to know full particulars of a candidate who is to represent him in parliament/assembly and such right to get information is universally recognised," said Justice Sathasivam.
"It is held that the right to know about the candidate is a natural right flowing from the concept of democracy and is an integral part of Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution."
The court said that the "ultimate purpose of filing of affidavit along with the nomination paper is to effectuate the fundamental right of the citizens under Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution".
"The citizens are supposed to have the necessary information at the time of filing of nomination paper and for that purpose, the returning officer can very well compel a candidate to furnish the relevant information," the judges said.
"It is the duty of the returning officer to check whether the information required is fully furnished at the time of filing of affidavit with the nomination paper since such information is very vital for giving effect to the 'right to know' of the citizens," the judgment said.
--IANS (Posted on 14-09-2013)