Report No. 244
B. Reform Proposal
It has been noted by the Election Commission that candidates have repeatedly failed to furnish information, or grossly undervalued information such as the quantum of their assets.97
97. Election Commission of Indi.- Proposed Electoral Reforms (2004).
The reform suggestion is three-fold, first, that the punishment for filing false affidavits under Section 125A be increased to a minimum of two years, and that the alternate clause for fine be removed. Second, conviction under Section 125A should be made a ground for disqualification under Section 8(1) of the RPA.98 These penalties should not apply for trivial errors or inconsistencies, or for inadvertent omissions. Third, the filing of false affidavits should be made a corrupt practice under Section 123 of the RPA.
Further, the ECI has suggested that any complaint regarding false statement in the affidavit be submitted to the Returning Officer concerned within a period of 30 days from the date of declaration of the election. The Returning Officer shall then initiate action to prosecute the impugned candidate under Section 125A. It has also been established that the Returning Officer is not the only route to initiate prosecution in this regard. Alternatively, a complaint by any member of the public can lie directly to the Magistrate's Court.99
99. Election Commission of India, 'Important Electoral Reforms proposed by the Election Commission'
<http://eci.nic.in/eci_main/electoral_ref.pdf> accessed February 3rd, 2014.
Thus, disqualification under Section 8 for the filing of a false affidavit follows conviction under Section 125A. As discussed previously, trials against influential persons, especially trials where conviction can result in disqualification, are subject to inordinate delays. Therefore, the Supreme Court may be pleased to order that all cases being tried under Section 125A of the RPA be tried by the relevant court on a day-to-day basis.
The process for scrutiny of nominations should also be strengthened in order to curb the rampant filing of false affidavits. To this end, a gap of one week should be introduced between the last date of filing of nominations by the returning officer and the date of scrutiny, to allow adequate time for the filing of objections which the returning officer shall consider under Section 36 of the RPA.