In a landmark judgment aimed at stopping “the rule of mafia” from destroying democracy, the Supreme Court on Friday held that candidates contesting elections should reveal their source of income along with those of their families and dependants at the time of filing nominations to contest Assembly or parliamentary elections.
The court held that non-disclosure of source of income will amount to “corrupt practice”, warranting disqualification. Directing the Union government to amend the Representation of People Act for mandating disclosure of source of income of candidates and their kin, a bench, headed by Justice J. Chelameswar, said, “Such information will certainly be relevant and necessary for a voter to make an appropriate choice at the time of election.”
As of now, while filing nominations candidates file affidavits disclosing their assets but give no information on the source.
The court’s big push for the electoral reform came with the observation that accumulation of wealth in the hands of elected representatives without any known or by questionable sources of income paves the way for the “rule of mafia” substituting the rule of law. Disproportionate assets of elected representatives should alarm citizens and voters of any truly democratic society, said the bench, which also included Justice Abdul Nazeer.
“If assets of a legislator or his/her associates increase without bearing any relationship to their known sources of income, the only logical inference that can be drawn is that there is some abuse of the legislator’s constitutional office,” said the court, while hearing a PIL filed by NGO Lok Prahari.
Writing the judgment, Justice Chelameswar said, “Abnormal growth of assets of a legislator or his associates need not always be a consequence of illegal activity. It could be the result of activities which are improper… but are inconsistent with the basic constitutional obligations of a legislator.”
The bench said that the state owes a constitutional obligation towards people to ensure that there is no concentration of wealth to the common detriment and to the debilitation of democracy.
“If left unattended, it will inevitably lead to the destruction of democracy and pave the way for the rule of mafia,” the bench said.
The court supported the idea for a permanent mechanism to periodically collect income data of legislators and their associates and examine in every case whether there is disproportionate increase in the assets and recommend action.
The authority concerned can also place the information before the appropriate legislature to consider their eligibility to continue as members of the House.