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Candidates’ Right to Privacy from Voters

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: The Supreme Court ruled that candidates have a right to privacy from voters and are not required to disclose every aspect of their personal life and possessions.

The judgment came in a case where an MLA’s election was challenged for not declaring vehicles as assets. The Court ruled in favour of the MLA, stating that once sold, vehicles cannot be considered assets.

  

Statutory provisions regarding declarations by Election candidates as per RPA 1951:

  1. Section 33 of the Representation of People’s Act (RPA), 1951, governs nominations for election candidates and requires valid information presentation.
  2. Section 36 of the RPA, 1951, allows scrutiny of nominations by returning officers, who can reject nominations for defects of a ‘substantial character’

 

What did SC say?

  1. Supreme Court ruled that voters’ right to know is not absolute.
  2. A candidate’s privacy on matters irrelevant to their candidature is not a corrupt practice under Section 123 of the RPA, 1951.
  3. Non-disclosure of certain personal items is not a substantial defect under Section 36 of the RPA, 1951.
  4. Candidates are not obligated to disclose every item of movable property they own.
  5. Suppressing information about expensive items like watches can be a substantial defect. Ownership of simple items may not constitute a defect in disclosure.

 

Voters in India have certain rights protected by the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Constitution:

  1. Right to Know: Voters have the right to know about candidates’ criminal records, financial status, manifesto, etc.
  2. Voting rights of NRIs: Non-resident Indians (NRIs) can vote in Indian elections.
  3. Voting rights of Prisoners: Prisoners are not permitted to vote.
  4. NOTA (Right Not to Vote): Voters can choose NOTA if they feel none of the candidates are suitable.
  5. Tendered Voting Rights: Voters can vote separately if someone else has wrongly voted on their behalf.
  6. Voting rights of Disabled or Infirm Citizens: The ECI assists disabled or infirm citizens in casting their votes.