Electoral reforms: SC pulls up govt for not disclosing action taken on politicians’ assets

Time & Us
Last Updated: September 7, 2017 at 12:50 am

The Supreme Court is hearing a plea on disclosure of sources of income by candidates contesting elections when they file nomination.
Taking strong exception to the Centre’s failure in disclosing action taken against politicians whose assets have jumped manifold between two elections, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the government to place the necessary information before it within seven days.
“Please ensure it and provide data at 10.30 am sharp on Tuesday (September 12). Why can’t you provide basic data?” a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar questioned the senior counsel representing the Centre.
The order came on public interest litigation (PIL) — filed by Lucknow-based NGO, Lok Prahari, that wants amendment in election law to make it necessary for a candidate to disclose his and his family’s sources of income at the time of filing nomination form.
The court pulled up the government after its counsel failed to provide data on how many enquiries has the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) initiated against politicians whose assets have seen a massive jump, in some cases up to 500%, after their elections.
CBDT’s affidavit was referred by the advocate in defence of his arguments and stand that the Centre was “serious” about its intention to clean the system. This argument was rejected and bench remarked: “This affidavit is not worth the piece of paper its written on.”
“You are not averse to electoral reforms but have not placed any necessary details. Is this the attitude of the government of India? What have you done till now?” the bench said.
Earlier, the Centre said it was not averse to the prayers made in the PIL but the directions sought did not lie within the judicial domain. The counsel argued an elaborative consultation process has to be undertaken to amend the law.
‘All stakeholders need to be taken on board. Data needs to be elicited before we can suggest the changes,” he said. The advocate cited the Centre’s flagship project – Swachh Bharat (Abhiyan) – and said “It is not about cleaning of garbage only.”
However, the lawyer’s eloquence failed to impress the bench. “You better file a detailed affidavit. This affidavit which you have filed is nothing but typed papers. Do not make vague statements. If the CBDT has taken some action, please disclose what action has been taken,” the bench said, giving liberty to the government to furnish the data in a sealed cover.
“Give reasons if you do not want the information to be made public,” the bench told the lawyer.
Association for Democratic REforms (ADR) – NGO working in the area of poltiical and electoral reforms – too has moved an intervention application in the case. IT has claimed that assets of 4 current Lok Sabha MPs have increased by 1200%. TWenty-two MPs have declared an asset increase of over 500%. One newly elected Rajya Sabha MP Anil Madhav Dave has declared an asset growth of over 2,100% since he last filed his affidavit.
Seven other newly elected Rajya Sabha MPs have declared increase of over 200%, it said.