The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to explain in two weeks why it has not set up a permanent mechanism to monitor the undue accretion of assets by elected representatives as directed by it last year. On Feb 16 last year, the apex court had said the undue accretion of assets by lawmakers was a “sure indicator” of the beginning of a failing democracy, which if left unattended, would lead to the destruction of democracy and pave way for “rule of mafia”.
It had then asked for a permanent mechanism to monitor the undue accretion of wealth by lawmakers. On Tuesday, hearing a contempt plea filed by NGO ‘Lok Prahari’, it said it was not issuing any notice but seeking a reply from the secretary of legislative department of the Union of India why the court’s directions were not complied with.
The NGO has claimed that certain directions issued by the court on Feb 16 last year have not been complied with. The court also asked the secretary to explain what his department has done with respect to non-disclosure or part disclosure of assets which would amount to “undue influence” under the Representation of People’s (RP) Act. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna asked the secretary to explain why Form 26, which every candidate is required to fill during his nomination, does not contain a declaration on whether he or she has suffered any kind of disqualification under the RP Act. At the outset, S N Shukla, secretary of the NGO, appearing in person, told the court that the Election Commission has complied with two of its directions, including one on the disclosure of assets and source of income of candidates, their spouse or dependents.
He said one more direction given by the court for making provision in Form 26 for disclosure by candidates about securing of contracts of high-monetary value either from the central or the state government has been complied. He, however, said three other directions has not been complied with till now. Shukla said no permanent machinery has been created to monitor the undue accretion of assets of members of Parliament, members of Legislative Assembly and Councils. He said the provision for non-disclosure of assets or part disclosure of assets which would amount to “undue influence” has not been given effect.
The third, he said, no provision has been made in Form 26 to enable a candidate to mandatorily disclose whether he or she suffers any disqualification of any kind under the RP Act. In a landmark verdict on electoral reforms on Feb 16 last year, the apex court had said disproportionate assets of elected representatives was a matter which should alarm citizens and voters of any democratic society. It had said that undue accumulation of wealth in the hands of any individual would not be conducive to the general welfare of the society.
Besides, income of lawmakers without any known or by questionable sources, would pave the way for the rule of mafia over the rule of law. The court had referred to Articles 38 and 39 of the Constitution, which declare that the state shall direct its policy towards securing that ownership and control of material resources of the community were distributed so as to best subserve the common good and guaranteeing that the economic system does not result in concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment. Lok Prahari, the NGO, had sought creation of a permanent mechanism to investigate candidates whose assets have grown disproportionately during their tenure as MLAs or MPs and also a direction to the candidates contesting polls to disclose their sources of income.