Deccan Herald
Ashish Tripathi
New Delhi

Madegowda won the Municipal election for Ward No 36, Yeraganahalli, in the Mysore City Corporation in September 2018

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the Karnataka High Court’s decision to set aside the election of Mysuru Mayor S Rukmini Madegowda. The top court rejected her argument that the Election Commission did not have power to issue directions for disclosure of assets by candidates, and those of their spouses, in polls held under the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act.

“Purity of election at all levels, be it election to the Union Parliament or a State Legislature or a Municipal Corporation or a Panchayat is a matter of national importance in which a uniform policy is desirable in the interest of all the states,” a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice U U Lalit said.

According to the ruling, “a hyper-technical view” regarding any omission “to incorporate any specific provision in the KMC Election Rules... expressly requiring disclosure of assets, to condone dishonesty and corrupt practice would be against the spirit of the Constitution and public interest,” the bench, also comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Ajay Rastogi, said.

Madegowda won the Municipal election for Ward No 36, Yeraganahalli, in the Mysore City Corporation in September 2018, and was subsequently chosen as the Mayor.

The trial court set aside her election, based on a petition by an unsuccessful candidate who alleged that she had falsely declared that her husband did not possess any immovable assets. The High Court also upheld this decision.

Appearing for her, senior advocate Shyam Divan contended that neither the KMC Act, nor any “rules framed thereunder” required disclosure of the assets of a candidate intending to contest elections or his/her spouse.

Divan also questioned the Election Commission’s authority to issue the notification of July 14, 2003, requiring candidates for elections under the KMC to disclose their assets and that of their spouses and dependents by filing an affidavit.

“It is the duty of the Election Commission to conduct fair elections in accordance with the statutory provisions. It is not for the EC to legislate,” he said.

The bench, however, did not agree to his contention, by saying it was this court which in ‘Union of India vs Association for Democratic Reforms and Ors’ had directed the “Election Commission to secure to voters, inter alia, information pertaining to assets not only of the candidates but also of their spouse and dependents.”

The bench, while saying that Parliament of India and respective state legislatures were “supreme” and not bound by any advice given by the Election Commission, the poll regulatory body must also “act within the four corners of law made by the Parliament and/or the concerned State Legislature.”

The bench, said, the Election Commission’s notification of July 14, 2003, was “within the contours of law,” adding that the non-disclosure of assets in the municipal elections would also “amount to undue influence” and consequently to “corrupt practice”.

“In our considered view, a false declaration with regard to the assets of a candidate, his/her spouse or dependents, constitutes corrupt practice irrespective of the impact of such a false declaration on the election of the candidate. It may be presumed that a false declaration impacts the election,” the bench said.

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