Poll probity: A good step

DECCAN CHRONICLE. Editorial comment on 3/11/16 – Voters have a basic right to know a candidate’s academic qualifications.

Union textiles minister Smriti Irani, whose qualifications were questioned by a writer who claimed there were discrepancies in her declarations in different elections between 2004 and 2014.

(Note: It needs repeating again and again that voters have a right to know not only the academic qualifications but also other background information asked for by the  election commission at the time of his/her application. What is more it must be strictly implemented, meaning those who submit false affidavits should be instantly disqualified because probity in public life is the first step to clean politics from corruption.

Those who are dishonest in little things can surely be expected to become sharks in the sea of corruption. The much discussed Smriti Irani case happens to be a shining example. Similarly there have been several instances in many parties, as in the Aam Aadmi party, where quick was not taken. Justice delayed is justice James Kottordenied. Only quick and stern action will discourage and firmly deter crooks entering the election fray by hook or crook. James kottoor, editor)

The Supreme Court’s assertion that voters have a basic right to know a candidate’s academic qualifications, and that a false declaration could warrant rejection of his/her nomination and even election is significant, and may have a salutary effect on those wishing to enter the poll fray. An election in Manipur set the ball rolling, and now that a precedent has been set, it could well be a celebrated point in law in the huge number of elections in India, ranging from Parliament down to local bodies.

An interesting case is that of Union textiles minister Smriti Irani, whose qualifications were questioned by a writer who claimed there were discrepancies in her declarations in different elections between 2004 and 2014. The high court was kind to her in determining that she needn’t be personally summoned in the case, but the verdict is keenly awaited now in light of the Supreme Court’s views on false declarations in nomination papers. Of course, those in power have a way of stonewalling, which privilege might not apply to everyone even if elected as legislators.

On a higher plane, why shouldn’t this probity sought in the matter of educational qualifications extend to all other matters that are declared at the time of poll nominations? It is only right that those who seek to be the people’s representatives in any elective office be also truthful in their declarations on their assets and their criminal record, if any. Is it not the duty of a candidate to give correct information in all his/her declarations?

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