The Supreme Court has ruled the Election Commission was authorised to disqualify a person if he or she is found to have disclosed false accounts of election expenditure. The verdict is likely to curb the practice of paid news, allegedly indulged in by many candidates.
A bench of justice AK Patnaik and justice FMI Kalifulla held that EC had the jurisdiction to hold inquiry into the correctness of accounts and order disqualification if it finds a candidate indulging in paid news. It dismissed appeals by former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, former Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda, and Uttar Pradesh MLA Umlesh Yadav. The court gave 45 days to EC to conclude its inquiries against Chavan and Koda.
Chavan came under the EC scanner for allegedly filing incorrect election expenses. The panel started an inquiry after his 2009 victory from Bhokar assembly seat in Nanded district. There were allegations that he indulged in paid news during his campaign and did not disclose the details. Chavan’s plea before Delhi HC was dismissed following which he moved the SC.
Similarly Koda too was probed by the EC in a similar case. Sitting Uttar Pradesh MLA Umlesh Yadav got disqualified on the same grounds in October 2011.
The EC, in its order had said “by suppressing expenditure on ‘paid news’ and filing an incorrect or false account, the candidate involved is guilty of not merely circumventing the law relating to poll expenses but also of projecting a wrong picture and defrauding the electorate.”