Voters have right to know antecedents of candidates: HC

Observing that the voters have the right to know, the Bombay High Court last week upheld the disqualification of BJP corporator Ashok Raul, who won from Thane's ward 12-D in 2017. The HC, however, refused to declare Shiv Sena leader Mandar Vichare, who bagged the second highest votes.

A bench of Justice Chandrakant Bhadang was moved by Raul (67) challenging a civil court's verdict disqualifying him for not disclosing his criminal antecedents in his nomination form.

According to Vichare (41) during the polls, Raul didn't disclose all of his criminal antecedents which is against the provisions of Representation of the People Act.

The bench while going through the material on record noted that Raul had indeed not disclosed all the cases but only a few of them in his nomination form.

In his defence, Raul through senior counsel P Dhakephalkar argued that the cases his client didn't mention in the nomination form were those wherein the courts haven't taken cognizance of, however, the record showed otherwise.

Having noted the material on record, the bench held the lower court wasn't wrong in disqualifying Raul.

The judge further referred to several judgments of the supreme court and said that the voters have the right to know about the qualifications, antecedents etc of a candidate.

The judge trashed the contention that the SC ruling of 'voters must know everything about the candidate,' doesn't apply on corporator level elections and only on MP and MLA level polls.

"In my humble opinion as local authorities such as corporations are also democratic institutions of local self-governance, the ruling would apply," Justice Bhadang said.

"It would be atrocious to assume that the requirement of such disclosure will not apply only because the SC rulings are rendered in the context of MP and MLA elections. It will lead to a situation where a voter exercising his franchise at the election of a MP and MLA will have a right to know the criminal antecedents of the candidate but will not have any such right at the election of a councilor," the judge opined.

The judge accordingly held that Raul's election amounts to "undue influence which is an irregularity affecting the result of the election."

As far as the contention of Vichare that he now deserves to be declared elected since he received second highest votes, the bench noted that the elections were "multi-cornered" contest involving more than two candidates. It further noted that Vichare hasn't put forth any evidence to show that the voters were put to notice about Raul's disqualification or otherwise.

"Thus, although the election of Raul is set aside the votes polled in his favour cannot be treated as votes ‘thrown away’ there by entitling Vichare to be declared as elected in the place of Raul," the judge ruled.

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