State Election Commission Has Power To Direct Candidates To File Affidavit Disclosing Assets Of Spouse- Supreme Court
While setting aside the election of the Appellant – Candidate to the Mysore Municipal Corporation as Councillor, the Supreme Court has observed that the state election commission has the power to direct the candidates to file an affidavit disclosing the assets of the spouse.
The Bench of CJI UU Lalit, Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Ajay Rastogi also observed that filing an affidavit by giving a false declaration regarding the assets of the spouse would amount to 'corrupt practices' under the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, 1976 (KMC).
In this case, the Appellant had filed her nomination for election to the Mysore Municipal Corporation, as Councillor from Ward No.36- Yeraganahalli in Karnataka, which was reserved for Backward Class-B (Women), along with a declaration by way of an affidavit, furnishing details of the movable and immovable properties held by the Appellant as well as her spouse and dependents (Affidavit of Assets).
Thereafter, elections were held and the Appellant was declared as successfully elected Councillor from the said Ward No.36, that is Yeraganahalli.
Respondent No. 4 who was an unsuccessful candidate filed an Election Petition before the Trial Court under Sections 33 and 34 of the KMC Act.
In his Petition, the Respondent had alleged that the Appellant had, in her Affidavit of Assets, falsely declared that her husband did not possess any immovable property, and that by giving such false declaration, the Appellant had indulged in corrupt practices to get the benefit of reservation under the Category of Backward Class-B (Women).
The Trial Court rejected the said Petition.
Respondent No. 4 filed an appeal before the Karnataka High Court challenging the judgment of the Trial Court. The High Court remanded the Election Petition back to the Trial Court while placing reliance on the judgment of the Apex Court in Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms 1 and in Lok Prahari v. Union of India.
The Trial Court then allowed the Petition and set aside the election of the Appellant.
The Appellant then preferred an appeal before the High Court under Section 38 of the KMC Act which was dismissed.
Senior Counsel Shyam Divan appeared for the Appellant while Senior Counsel Basava Prabhu S. Patil appeared for Respondent No. 4 before the Apex Court.
The Court noted that it is not disputed that the Appellant had suppressed information with respect to the assets of her husband. Further referring to Section 35(1)(b) of the KMC Act, the Court also noted that if the Court is of the opinion that a party has committed a 'corrupt practice', that would result in the election being declared void.
Also, a reference was made to Section 35 of the KMC Act which deals with grounds on which Courts can declare the election of the returned candidate to be void.
Section 39 was also referred to by the Court which enumerates the acts/practices which are to be deemed to be corrupt practices. Corrupt practices include 'undue influence' [Section 39(2) KMC Act].
The Court further placed reliance on Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms and Ors., where the Supreme Court had directed the Election Commission to secure to voters, inter alia, information pertaining to assets not only of the candidates but also of their spouse and dependents.
In this context, the Bench observed, "In light of the law declared by this Court in Association for Democratic Reforms (supra), we do not see any legal or normative impediment for the State Election Commission to issue directions requiring disclosure of assets of the candidate, his/her spouse and dependent associates by way of affidavit. In issuing the notification dated 14th July 2003, the Election Commission has not encroached into the legislative domain of the Karnataka State Legislature. The direction, as contained in the notification dated 14th July 2003 had been accepted by the Appellant. Having affirmed a false affidavit, it does not lie in the mouth of the Appellant to contend that her election should not be set aside on the ground of corrupt practice under Section 35(1) of the KMC Act."
Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal and set aside the election of the Appellant.
Cause Title – S. Rukmini Madegowda v. The State Election Commission & Ors.
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