Candidates have a right to privacy from voters

News Excerpt: 

A voter’s right to know about election candidates is absolute, but it doesn’t require them to lay out their life threadbare for examination as they too are entitled to “privacy,” the Supreme Court.

About SC’s Judgement:

  • The Bench of SC ruled that a candidate's decision to maintain privacy on irrelevant personal matters isn't considered a 'corrupt practice' under Section 123 of the Representation of People Act, 1951
    • They clarified that such non-disclosure doesn't constitute a "defect of a substantial nature" under Section 36(4) of the RPA 1951.
  • The Supreme Court, in its judgment, clarified that candidates are not obliged to expose every aspect of their lives to public scrutiny when declaring their assets during elections. 
    • The Court emphasized that the declaration of assets by candidates is meant to further democratic participation by citizens and enhance the right to information of the voters, enabling them to cast their votes rationally and intelligently.
    • The Court distinguished that a candidate doesn't need to declare every item of movable property, such as clothing, shoes, crockery, stationery, and furniture, unless these items are of such value as to constitute a sizeable asset in itself or reflect upon the candidate's candidature in terms of their lifestyle.
  • The Court stated that each case would turn on its own peculiarities regarding what would amount to a non-disclosure of assets of a substantial nature. 
    • While suppressing information about a collection of expensive watches from voters would be considered a substantial defect, the suppression of the value of simple, inexpensive watches owned by the candidate and their family members may not amount to a defect at all.
    • Ultimately, the Court emphasized that each case would have to be judged on its own facts to determine whether the non-disclosure of certain assets is substantial or not.
  • The judgment aimed to strike a balance between the right of voters to access relevant information about a candidate's assets and the candidate's right to privacy, acknowledging that not every minor detail needs to be exposed for public scrutiny.

Summary of the case

  • The case involved a petition filed by Arunachal Pradesh MLA Karikho Kri challenging the Gauhati High Court's decision to declare his election to the 44-Tezu Assembly Constituency void.
  • The High Court's decision was based on Kri's failure to declare three vehicles (a Kinetic Zing Scooty, a Maruti Omni van, and a TVS Star City motorcycle) as his assets in the affidavit filed under Form No 26 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961.
  • Kri had won the elections on May 23, 2019, as an Independent candidate.
    • The scooter was sold as scrap in 2009, while the other two vehicles were also sold. However, the High Court did not examine the statements of the buyers.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kri, 
    • Sc agreed with his lawyers' argument that vehicles, once sold, could hardly be considered as "assets" of the candidate.
    • The Court stated that the non-disclosure of the three vehicles could not be treated as an attempt by Kri to unduly influence voters, 
      • thereby invoking the corrupt practices provisions (Section 123(2)) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
    • Considering Kri's declared worth of ₹8,41,33,815 cumulatively and a total income of ₹11,72,91,634, the Court reasoned that the value of the three vehicles in question would be a mere minuscule in comparison.
  • The case highlighted the need for a balanced approach in determining the materiality of non-disclosed assets by candidates during elections, taking into account the overall financial position and the potential impact on influencing voters.

Rights of the Voters’ in India:

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has granted certain rights to the voters. All people of the nation are granted these rights, which are protected by the nation's Constitution.

The Indian Voters' Rights:

Right to know: Voters have a right to know about the candidates running for office. Voters are entitled to know about a candidate's past performance, including any criminal history, financial situation, election platform, etc.

Non-Resident Indians (NRIs') right to vote

  • NRIs are nationals of the nation who, despite being absent from their place of residence due to work or other obligations, are nevertheless able to cast ballots in national elections.
  •  Originally, NRIs were not permitted to cast ballots in national elections. After six months, an amendment was made that permitted (NRIs) to cast ballots in elections held in India.

Voting rights of Prisoners: Our constitution and the ECI regulations prohibit prisoners from casting ballots in the elections.

Right Not to Vote, or None Of The Above (NOTA)

  • Another voter right is the NOTA, or the Right Not to Vote, which allows a voter to take part in the election process without casting a ballot or selecting a candidate. When a voter believes that none of the candidates seeking office are deserving of their support, they may exercise this prerogative. 
    • In this scenario, the voter will select or vote NOTA, indicating that he or she does not want to support any of the candidates running for office.

Voting Rights Tendered: Voters have the right to exercise this privilege if they believe that someone else voted on their behalf improperly. According to the Election Commission, such an individual must present a legitimate form of identification in order to prove their eligibility to vote and cast a ballot on a separate sheet.

Voting rights of Disabled or Infirm Citizens: The purpose of this right is to protect the ability of individuals who are disabled or ill to vote and make sure that their voices are heard in a democratic society. In situations where an individual with a disability is unable to cast their ballot in person or by mail, the Election Commission will help these voters by accepting their ballots with the assistance of an Election Officer.


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