The Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that disclosure of sources of income along with that of their spouse and dependents must be made mandatory for the poll candidates at the time of filing nomination to bring transparency in the election process.
The poll panel has also sought amendments in the Representation of the People Act to ensure that a candidate is disqualified not only when he has an existing contract with the government but also when any member of his family has a similar financial agreement.
In an affidavit before the apex court, the EC said it is necessary for "healthier democracy" that voters get to know the sources of income of aspiring candidates and family members. Under the current law, a candidate is required to disclose details of assets and liabilities for self, spouse and three dependents in Form 26 while filing nomination paper but not the source of income.
"The existing format of the poll affidavit does not give any information in respect of the sources of income of the candidate and his family members to enable the electors to form an informed choice as to whether the increase of the income of the candidate from the previous election is reasonable or not," the commission said.
The submission came in response to a PIL filed by NGO Lok Prahri seeking the court's direction to amend the Representation of the People Act to make it mandatory for candidates to disclose the sources of their income and that of their family members.
The Supreme Court on July 19, 2016, issued notices to the Centre and the Election Commission on the plea that candidates should disclose sources of income and whether they hold stakes in entities with business transactions with the government.
Lok Prahari told the court that candidates filing nomination papers were disclosing their assets and those of their spouse, children and other dependents but not sources of income through which they came to possess these.
The NGO said some lawmakers were thriving on easy money and of the 542 Lok Sabha members, 113 have described their profession as housewife, social worker, social service and politics.
The NGO has also sought a direction to the Centre to bring an amendment in the law to disqualify a lawmaker if he has a share or interest in a firm that enters into a business contract with the government or a public company.
"The increasing role of money power in elections is toowell known and is one of the maladies which sometimes reduces the process of election into a mere farce by placing some privileged candidates with financial resources in a distinctly advantageous position as compared to other candidates,” the poll panel said.
"The result of such an election cannot reflect the true choice of the people. The system also sometimes deprives qualified and able persons the prerogative to represent masses," it said.
The commission also told the court that the law should be amended to provide punishment of a two-year jail term to candidates for filing a false affidavit, enhancing it from the present six-month period.
The panel also suggested that a provision should be made for disqualification of an elected representative in the event that his family member or any of the companies associated with him having business interest in government.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued another notice to the Centre and the Election Commission while hearing plea for disclosure of sources of income by candidates for parliamentary and assembly elections, filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
In its petition, ADR has cited instances of exponential increase in assets held by lawmakers in just five years.
ADR said assets of four sitting Lok Sabha members had increased by 1,200 per cent. There was 500 per cent increase in assets of 22 other Lok Sabha members, the NGO said.
Rajya Sabha member Anil Madhav Dave declared an asset growth of over 2,100 per cent, the petitioner pointed out.
The ADR cited the example of an Assam state legislator with declared increase of over 5,000 per cent in his assets. In the case of another legislator, from Kerala, the increase in assets is over 1,700 per cent since the 2011 assembly elections.
The ADR, in its application to be impleaded as co-petitioner in an earlier plea filed by Lucknow-based NGO Lok Prahari, contended that a number of people filing self-attested affidavits on their assets were not disclosing details of Income Tax returns.
The petitioner said an analysis of assets declared during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2016 Rajya Sabha elections as well as elections to Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala, Assam and West Bengal assemblies revealed "abnormal increase" in assets of many members of Parliament and assemblies.