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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Disclosure of assets needed to educate voters on candidate’s financial status: Bombay High Court

The court said on Friday that, as held by Supreme Court in a case, “the disclosure is required to enable the voter to form his opinion about the candidate’s antecedents.”

| Mumbai | Updated: March 25, 2018 3:57:15 am
bombay high court, disclosure of assets, bombay high court candidates, bombay high court elections, indian express, maharashtra news Justice S C Gupte observed, “The purpose of disclosure of assets and liabilities of the candidate is to educate the voters about the financial status of the candidate. (Bombay High Court/Express Photo)

The Bombay High Court has said that the disclosure of assets and liabilities of candidates in an election was to make voters aware of the financial status of a candidate. The court said on Friday that, as held by Supreme Court in a case, “the disclosure is required to enable the voter to form his opinion about the candidate’s antecedents.”

Justice S C Gupte observed, “The purpose of disclosure of assets and liabilities of the candidate is to educate the voters about the financial status of the candidate. It also facilitates the voters to estimate whether assets declared by the candidate have been procured by him out of legitimate or known sources of income. Based on this estimate, the voters have to form a decision on whether or not to elect the candidate,” the court observed.

The court’s observation came on a petition was filed by Balaram Patil challenging the election of Prashant Thakur to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from Panvel (Constituency No.188). The court later dismissed the petition.
Patil has challenged Thakur’s election on the ground of improper acceptance of the nomination form by the Returning Officer and under Section 123 (corrupt practice) of the Representative of the People Act, allegedly committed by the Thakur.

Patil, Thakur and 12 others were candidates from Panvel for election to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on October 15, 2014. Patil was the candidate of the Peasants and Workers Party of India and Thakur the BJP’s candidate. Patil’s petition stated that Thakur’s nomination forms contained false declaration about his assets and had incomplete disclosures. Patil alleged that despite the lapses, the nomination forms were improperly accepted by the returning officer. The other allegation made by Patil is regarding a vehicle owned by a company supposedly controlled by Thakur’s family.

It was used for election propaganda at the instance of Thakur or his election agent and was found to contain 500 envelopes containing Rs 500 each, together with material such as election pamphlets, voters’ list, etc. According to Patil’s petition, the vehicle was used for the purpose of offering gratification to the voters. An FIR was registered in connection with this incident.

Thakur, in a written statement, denied all allegations. He denied the allegations of corrupt practise on his part. “…The success gained by a candidate in a public election cannot be allowed to be called into question by any unsuccessful candidate by making frivolous or baseless allegations, thereby unnecessarily dragging the successful candidate to the court and wasting his precious time, which could otherwise be devoted to the welfare of the members of his constituency as their representative,” Thakur’s statement said.

Senior lawyer M M Vashi, appearing for Thakur, told the court that there was a fair and substantial disclosure on the part of the respondent (Thakur). On the allegation of offering gratification to voters, Justice Gupte observed: “It may well be that this cash was meant to be offered to the individual voters whose names were in the slips, but it still stops short of materialising into an offer made. So long as there is no offer, there is no offence of bribery. Preparations for making an offer are not sufficient for entering the verdict of bribery.”

Finding no merit in the petition, the court held, “The disclosure made by the respondent in his affidavit concerning his financial status, including his assets and liabilities, is, thus, a fair disclosure, which substantially complies with the mandate of the legal requirement of disclosure of material particulars within the framework of the election law.”

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