In an important ruling ahead of the next round of assembly and Lok Sabha elections, the Delhi High Court has said a false affidavit by a candidate at the time of filing of nomination papers is a ground for setting aside his/her election.
“Filing of a false affidavit is not merely an electoral offence but also a ground for setting aside of the election," justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said while ruling on a petition challenging the election of Congress Member of the Legislative Assembly Jai Kishan from Sultanpur Majra constituency in Delhi in the 2008 assembly elections.
"Logically, if the disclosure is false, the election in pursuance thereto would be an impure one," Endlaw said. But the high court upheld Kishan's elections on the ground that there was no falsity in his affidavit.
The ruling that came last month is important as filing of a false affidavit is not a ground for annulling an election under the Representation of People Act, 1951. However, Section 125A of the Act makes providing false information in an affidavit filed by a candidate punishable with an imprisonment of up to six months or with fine.
The court said it was hard to digest that the only consequence of such an impure election would be six-month imprisonment or fine while the elected candidate continues to hold office. It would be bad for the health of democracy and fair elections, it added.
The high court emphasised that the reason behind the Supreme Court verdict making it mandatory for candidates to declare their educational qualifications, assets, liabilities and criminal history was to empower voters to enable them to make an informed choice.
The election commission had in February 2011 proposed that Section 125A of the Act should be amended to provide for a 30-day period for filing of complaints with the returning officer for follow-up action. Alternatively, a complaint can filed directly with the magistrate court, the commission suggested. But there has been no forward movement on its suggestions.