State Election Commission has authority to order candidates to file affidavit disclosing spousal assets – Supreme Court

While quashing the election of the appellant – candidate for the Mysore Municipal Corporation as a councillor, the Supreme Court observed that the state election commission has the power to order candidates to file an affidavit disclosing assets of the spouse.

The bench of CJI UU Lalit, Judge Indira Banerjee and Judge Ajay Rastogi also observed that filing an affidavit making a false statement regarding the spouse’s assets would amount to “corrupt practices” under the Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) Act 1976.

In this case, the appellant had submitted her candidacy for election to the Mysore Municipal Corporation, as Councilor of Ward No. 36- Yeraganahalli in Karnataka, which was reserved for class B (women) arrears, accompanied by a declaration by means of an affidavit, giving particulars of the movable and immovable property held by the appellant and her spouse and dependents (Affidavit of Assets).

Subsequently, elections were held and the appellant was successfully declared councilor of the said Ward No. 36, ie Yeraganahalli.

Respondent No. 4, an unsuccessful candidate, filed an election petition in the court of first instance under Sections 33 and 34 of the KMC Act.

In her motion, the Respondent alleged that the Appellant had, in her affidavit of assets, falsely stated that her husband did not own any real estate, and that by making such a false statement, the Appellant had engaged in fraudulent maneuvers to obtain the reservation benefit in the class B (women) arrears category.

The court of first instance dismissed the said request.

Respondent No. 4 appealed to the High Court of Karnataka challenging the judgment of the Magistrate Court. The High Court remanded the election petition to the Magistrates’ Court while relying on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms 1 and in Lok Prahari v. Union of India.

The trial court then granted the motion and set aside the appellant’s election.

The appellant then appealed to the High Court under Section 38 of the KMC Act, which was dismissed.

Senior Attorney Shyam Divan appeared for the Appellant during Senior Advisor Basava Prabhu S. Patil appeared for Respondent #4 in Apex Court.

The Court noted that it is undisputed that the appellant had deleted information regarding her husband’s property. Further referring to Section 35(1)(b) of the KMC Act, the Court also noted that if the Court is of the opinion that a party has committed a “corrupt practice”, this would result in the cancellation of the election.

In addition, reference was made to Article 35 of the KMC Act which deals with the grounds on which the courts may declare the election of the elected candidate void.

Article 39 was also mentioned by the Court which lists the acts/practices which must be considered as corrupt practices. Corrupt practices include “undue influence” [Section 39(2) KMC Act].

The Court further relied on Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms and Ors., where the Supreme Court had ordered the Electoral Commission to provide voters with, among other things, information regarding the assets not only of candidates but also of their spouses and dependents.

In this context, the Chamber observed, “In light of the law declared by this Court in Association for Democratic Reforms (supra), we see no legal or regulatory impediment to the State Election Commission issuing directions requiring the disclosure of candidate assets. , his spouse and dependents Associates by way of affidavit In issuing the notice dated July 14, 2003, the Elections Commission did not encroach upon the legislative domain of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Karnataka. The direction, as contained in the notification dated July 14, 2003, was accepted by the Appellant. Having confirmed a false affidavit, it is not for the Appellant to claim that her election should not not be set aside for corruption under Section 35(1) of the KMC Act.”

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal and set aside the Appellant’s election.

Case Title – S. Rukmini Madegowda v. The State Election Commission and Ors.

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