The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a plea of an NGO seeking contempt action against a secretary of the legislative department in the law and justice ministry for non-compliance with a top court direction issued in 2018 on electoral reforms.

A bench headed by Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, which had issued notice to the secretary on November 11, will now take up the matter for hearing on January 2.
Petitioner in-person SN Shukla, appearing for NGO Lok Prahari, in his contempt plea contended that several directions were issued by the top court on February 16, 2018, but they have remained non-complied with for no valid or compelling reasons.

In his plea, Shukla pointed out that the Centre has not established a permanent mechanism to conduct inquiry in the cases of MPs/MLAs/MLCs whose assets increase by more than 100 percent by the next election.
The contempt plea said the Centre has also not brought to the notice of all concerned the declaration of the law that the non-disclosure of assets and sources of income of the candidates and their associates would constitute a corrupt practice falling under heading 'undue influence' as defined under Section 123(2) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951.

It said that Form 26 which requires an amendment by mandating the necessity of candidates submitting information as to whether they suffer from any disqualification under any provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 has not been amended as required in terms of the order.

On February 16, 2018, the top court had ruled that politicians, their spouses and dependents would now have to declare their sources of income, along with their assets, for contesting elections.

In a landmark judgment, the apex court had passed a slew of measures to reform the electoral process, observing that the "purity" of electoral process was fundamental to the "survival of a healthy democracy".

It had asked the Centre to put in place a mechanism to periodically collect data of the elected representatives, their spouses and dependents to examine whether there was any "disproportionate increase" in their assets and recommend appropriate action in such cases.

The top court had also said that as per the mechanism, details regarding disproportionate hike in the assets of elected representatives, their spouses and dependents should be placed before the "appropriate legislature" to consider the eligibility of such lawmakers to continue as members of Parliament and assemblies.

It had said that non-disclosure of assets and the sources of income of the candidates and their "associates", which include their spouses and dependents, would constitute a "corrupt practice" under the provision of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951.

The court's judgment was delivered on a petition filed by Lok Prahari, which had sought creation of a permanent mechanism to investigate candidates whose assets have grown disproportionately during their tenure as MLAs or MPs and also a direction to the candidates contesting polls to disclose their sources of income.

With PTI Inputs