To declare or not: Expert verdict split on assets
The law does not require presidential candidates to declare their assets and liabilities. But a demand has now been made for them to do so — like those contesting elections to Parliament and state legislatures do.
On Monday, BJP leader LK Advani asked the Election Commission (EC), to make it mandatory for candidates to declare their assets and liabilities. Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi dismissed the move as “mischievous”.
This came as a Delhi-based advocate filed a public-interest petition in the Supreme Court, urging it to direct the EC to cancel the nomination of Pratibha Patil, the UPA-Left candidate. The petition will be heard on Tuesday.
Constitutional experts were divided down the middle on the desirability of extending the transparency law to the presidential poll. Even those who favoured disclosure, like Rajiv Dhawan, said it was too late to change the rules of the election now.
But till the debate is resolved, Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, a member of the Administrative Reforms Commission and head of the Hyderabad-headquartered advocacy group Loksatta, would like to see presidential candidates putting such information in the public domain. “I believe high dignitaries have the obligation to set the standards and further the democratic reforms process,” said Narayan. “Therefore, if disclosure is now voluntary, even if the law is not there, it would serve the cause of the country well.”
Dhawan said the EC could do little at this stage. But before the process for the next election — the vice-presidential poll is due in August — begins, the government can make it mandatory for candidates to disclose information about themselves.