Narada News Exclusive: The SC judgment that could land Narendra Modi, Smriti Irani in trouble

In the instant case of a legislator from Manipur, the apex court declared his election “null and void” on grounds that he filed a false affidavit before the election commission that he was an MBA graduate
Smriti Irani : Union Textiles Minister

Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani may be in trouble now. This follows the Supreme Court annulling an election of a legislator on grounds of his false declaration in an election affidavit relating to his educational qualification. Irani had in the past, reportedly, declared three different educational qualifications in at least two different elections.

In the instant case of a legislator from Manipur, the Supreme Court declared his election “null and void” on grounds that he filed a false affidavit before the election commission that he was an MBA graduate.

The order that voters have a right to know about the educational qualification of the contestants they have to choose and vote was handed down by a bench of Justice AR Dave and Justice L Nageswara Rao on two appeals by the Manipur legislator Prithviraj Singh and Pukhrem Sharatchandra Singh.

The latter challenged Prithviraj’s election to the state legislative assembly on grounds that he filed a false affidavit of his educational qualification. The former challenged the Manipur high court verdict which annulled his election.

The Supreme Court upheld the verdict of the Manipur high court. The Supreme Bench held any “false declaration” relating to educational qualification should result in a rejection of the nomination paper itself.

The apex court has also clarified that the provision of the Representation of Peoples Act (RPA), the rules framed thereunder as well as Form 26 (of the election nomination papers) clearly stipulate that there is a “duty” cast on the candidates to give the correct information about their educational qualifications.

In fact, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi came under a cloud for filing a false affidavit as he, in all the three Gujarat elections he contested, did not declare his marital status.

But in the 2014 general elections from Varanasi constituency, he filed the affidavit that he was married. Now, this verdict may give another fodder to the Opposition, especially the Congress.

In the Manipur legislator’s case, the Supreme Court said that his nomination papers have been “improperly” accepted. In this context, if there is a challenge to Modi’s election from Varanasi, his nomination papers too could have been declared as “improperly” accepted. Another important aspect of this verdict is that if the nomination papers of a returned candidate had been “improperly” accepted, then the candidate who lost the election need not prove that the election is “materially affected” and it was for the returned candidate to prove that the election was “not materially” affected.

Prithviraj contested the election to the Manipur assembly in 2012 as the Congress candidate. His rival contended that he had also earlier declared that he was an MBA graduate but stated that while writing or filling up the nomination papers there was a mistake and that he was only an MA graduate and the ‘B’ in between was “inadvertently” added, which was a mistake. A human error! However, the high court this time refused to buy this theory and nullified his election. Both the returned and the lost candidates came before the Supreme Court.

Upholding the high court verdict, the Supreme Court said that the contention of the returned candidate that it was a “clerical error” could not be accepted as “it is an error since 2008”, ever since the candidate had been making the statement in affidavits that he was an MBA graduate. Any such statement in Form 26 of the election nomination papers would tantamount to a false declaration.

The law relating to such election is that to consider whether “improper acceptance” of the nomination papers of a returned candidate has “materially” affected the election. If a defeated candidate’s nomination has been found to be “improperly accepted,” anyone challenging it has to prove that those votes polled in favor of the defeated candidate, too, could have been in somebody else’s favour. But in the case of a candidate who has won, it is for him to prove. This is anyhow the subtlety of law.

But what is material for the public debate is that whether anyone, winning or losing, could file any false declaration? There are already penal provisions in criminal law for filing any false affidavit or declaration. Even in the case of Rahul Gandhi as well as Sonia Gandhi, there have been controversies relating to their educational qualifications which Subramanian Swamy, now of the BJP, is raking up.

It is high time Parliament passed a law amending the election law to nullify all the elections with such false affidavits and declaration not only about educational qualification but also marital status, wealth, and other statements.