FPJ Legal: Even unopposed elected candidates have to furnish election expenses, rules Bombay High Court

Mumbai: In a significant ruling that could have a bearing on elections and participating candidates, a division bench of the Bombay High Court of Justices Sanjay Gangapurwalla and Sunil Deshmukh ordered that even candidates winning unopposed in elections will have to submit their election expenses.

The bench went on to note in its order that there was a trend among candidates to file nominations with huge fanfare, processions and even advertisement, all of which need money.

The judges in their judgment said that the provision of filing their election expenses is an important one as it keeps a check on candidates and maintains purity of elections. They further said that the Election Commission (EC) has from time-to-time introduced norms to curb corrupt practices employed by candidates by using money power.

"Money, its power and influence have strong propensity to subserve the cause of privileged class putting them indistinctly advantageous position. It appears that provisions have the emergence in unethical, unlawful and corrupt use of money to influence, entice, induce people rather corrupting their conscience and/or may be a case to take disadvantage of the poor condition of people forcing them to surrender their conscience and obtain votes," the bench observed.

"The money and with its aid the means employed had been leading to unlawful practices, reversely affecting underlying object of democratic governance of polity," the judges added.

These regulations, the bench said, give preference to persons who have potential for doing greater good of large number of people on their own rather than getting elected by corrupt means using money and economic tools.

The bench made these observations while deciding a reference referred to them by a single-judge bench of the high court asking them to answer whether candidates, who win unopposed, have to file their election expenses, as mandated by the EC.

Stages of election generally begin with candidates purchasing nomination form, its submission and its validation by the returning officer and/or even with purchase of voters’ list before nomination, the bench noted. The judges then referred to the new trend in politics, wherein candidates even before filing nomination carry out huge roadshows or rallies.

"The recent trend of candidates has been to declare and publicize their candidature with much fanfare, submitting nomination forms by a procession, with bands, road-show, putting cut outs, advertisements, celebrating the same etc. even before submission, scrutiny, and validation of their nomination," the judges observed.

"Naturally, a lot of expenditure is involved in all this. On many occasions, candidates indulged in filing multiple nomination forms with a view to see that their candidature is not blocked or side lined or held up on account of defect or deficiency in a form and at least one of the nomination forms would make them survive to stand in the fray," the judges pointed out.

The bench further said that with such preparations, candidates in elections on many occasions make substantial arrangements for campaigning offices, grounds, advertising, payments to workers, securing voters’ lists etc, even before the date of finalization of nomination which indeed involves expenditure.

"It would not be that expenses for election would be only when there would be a contest in the elections. It, thus, cannot be said in all the cases that, there would be no election expenses in contest free or unopposed elections and candidates getting elected unopposed, would stand exempted from tendering election expenses," the judges ruled.

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