The Delhi High Court has said that a false declaration with regard to a poll candidate's educational qualification can be brought within the ambit of corrupt practices under the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The court said that a bare reading of Section 123(4) of the Act shows that a corrupt practice included the publication of any false statement by a candidate with respect to his candidature, including information concerning his educational qualification.
It stated that while the Supreme Court has unambiguously held that voters have the fundamental right to know the antecedents of candidates, another bench of the high court has also ruled that non-disclosure pertaining to educational qualifications would constitute a corrupt practice. “A false declaration made, qua educational qualification can be brought within the four corners of Section 123(4) of the 1951 Act,” said Justice Rajiv Shakdher in a recent order passed in a plea by AAP MLA Vishesh Ravi seeking the rejection of BJP candidate Yogender Chandolia's election petition, challenging his nomination. Chandolia was contesting against Ravi in the last Delhi assembly elections.
“The expression 'in relation to candidature' should, in my view, include information concerning the educational qualification of a candidate, since the Supreme Court has unambiguously held that voters have the fundamental right to know the antecedents of the candidate,” it added. In the election petition, the BJP candidate alleged that amongst other things, the AAP MLA from Karol Bagh concealed his educational qualification in his nomination affidavit filed for last year's assembly polls. Ravi, in his plea, argued that the election petition ought to be rejected as it did not disclose a cause of action.
The court refused to reject the BJP candidate's objections at this stage as it observed that the election petition showed that there were assertions to demonstrate that the MLA “has been taking inconsistent stands concerning the highest educational qualification secured by him”. “It is averred that as per form-26 filed in 2013, the applicant/respondent no.1 (Ravi) claimed that he had obtained a degree in B.Com in 2008 from CCS University, whereas in Form- 26 filed in 2015, the applicant/respondent no.1 claimed that he was pursuing a B.A. (Programme) from IGNOU, Delhi; which is also claimed to be the highest educational qualification attained by him, at that juncture,” the court noted.
“In contradiction, in Form-26 filed in 2020, the applicant/respondent no.1 claims his highest educational qualification as Class X pass in 2003, via NIOS,” it said. “Given the material on record, I am unable to persuade myself that merely because the May 2002 Academic Examination Result for Class X, concerning the applicant/respondent no.1, does not align with the assertion made in the petition that the application/respondent no.1 did not pass the examination of Class X in 2003 would not be a good enough reason to reject the petition. The averments made in this behalf have to be read in their entirety, and, therefore, the matter, in my view, needs to be tried,” the judge said.
In the order, the court also said that the law required a candidate to disclose his past convictions including fines imposed, imprisonments suffered, acquittals and discharge, if any, at the stage of nomination as well as information qua pending criminal case where a person if convicted, can be sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more, albeit, where charge is framed or cognizance is taken by a court of law.
-With PTI Inputs