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Upload affidavits of Gujarat local body poll candidates on State Election Commission website immediately, demands ADR

By Our Representative
In a move that might embarrass Gujarat’s State Election Commission (SEC) even further, the well-known national election watchdog, Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), has asked SEC chairman Dr Varesh Sinha to immediately upload the affidavits of the candidates contesting Gujarat local body elections on the SEC “for dissemination of information to voters.”
An ADR letter to Sinha, also signed by those representing Gujarat Election Watch, the state wing of the National Election Watch (NEW), a congregation of over 1,200 civil society groups across the country, said, this should be done “on the lines of Parliamentary and Assembly elections.”
The letter comes after the SEC received three major drubbings at the hands of the Gujarat High Court: Its compulsory voting decision was put off as violation of fundamental rights; the decision to postpone the local body elections on the grounds of law and order situation in the wake of the Patidar agitation was set aside; and the decision to not to have None of the Above (NOTA) button was rejected.
ADR said, “On the lines of Parliamentary and Assembly elections, affidavits with nomination papers should also be taken from candidates contesting local body elections containing information about their criminal antecedents, assets and liabilities, and educational qualifications.”
Insisting that “the scanned copy of these affidavits should be put up on the website within 24 hours of filing of the affidavit”, the ADR said, “The voters’ right to know the antecedents of the candidates is based on interpretation of Article 19(1)(a) which provides that all citizens of this country would have fundamental right to “freedom of speech and expression” and this phrase is construed to include fundamental right to know relevant antecedents of the candidate contesting the elections.”
The ADR reminded the SEC that in March 2003, in the ADR vs Union of India case, the Supreme Court, in a “landmark” judgment, “made it mandatory for candidates contesting Lok Sabha and Assembly elections to declare their criminal antecedents, assets and liabilities and educational qualifications.”
“In keeping with the spirit of the judgement, at the All India State Election Commissioners' (SEC) Conference held in July 2003, all the State Election Commissions had unanimously resolved to implement the disclosure rules in local body elections”, the ADR said.
Pointing out that on June 28, 2011, Gujarat SEC also issued an order in this regard, the ADR said, “SECs of almost all the big states have also issued the similar orders”, and in the recently concluded UP Panchayat elections and Maharashtra Municipal body elections the affidavits of candidates contesting local body elections in these states “were readily available on their SEC websites.”
The ADR provided following links to the analysis it made of earlier local body elections:
  • http://adrindia.org/research-and-report/election-watch/localbodies/maharashtra/2015/analysis-criminal-and-financial,
  • http://adrindia.org/research-andreports/local-bodies/analysis-criminal-financial-other-details-candidates-contesting-municipalcorporation-delhi)
Those who have signed the letter include ADR head Maj Gen Anil Verma (retd); Prof Trilochan Sastry, founder member, ADR, faculty, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore; and Prof Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member, ADR, former director in-charge, IIM-Ahmedabad.
Roshan Shah

RTI activist demands affidavits to be put online

Earlier, a well-known RTI and political activist, Roshan Shah wrote a letter to Sinha protesting against the failure of the SEC, Gujarat, to upload past affidavits on the candidates fighting local body elections on the SEC website.
Shah insisted, “If the affidavits of candidates contesting corporation elections this time are also not put online, SEC and returning officers must take up detailed scrutiny of repeat candidates by comparing their records with all of their past affidavits.”
“It will not be possible for other candidates to raise objections during scrutiny process because of non-availability of past records and therefore it is all the more responsibility and duty of SEC/returning officers to compare the affidavits with past affidavits and register FIRs for any concealment, misrepresentations of false information and reject such candidates at the time of scrutiny”, Shah demanded.
“Not doing so would be considered as intentional mischief by SEC in collusion with the State government and allowing fake, false and bogus candidates to contest elections thereby cheating the voters”, Shah said.

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