Election 2024: Candidates need not disclose every asset they own, says Supreme Court [9.4.2024]

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that electoral candidates do not have to disclose in their nomination papers every piece of movable property owned by them or their family members, unless the assets are of significant value or reflect a luxurious lifestyle, reported Live Law.

A division bench comprising justices Anirudhha Bose and Sanjay Kumar said this while upholding the 2019 election of ) Karikho Kri, an Independent legislator representing the Tezu Assembly constituency in Arunachal Pradesh.

The apex court overturned a ruling of the Gauhati High Court (HC), which had declared Kri's election null and void for failing to disclose the complete list of assets belonging to his wife and son when filing his nomination.

The High Court's decision was in response to a petition filed by Congress candidate Nuney Tayang, who alleged that Kri had failed to disclose three vehicles owned by his wife and son.

However, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday that the failure to disclose these assets cannot be considered a corrupt practice under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. This section addresses corrupt practices such as bribery, undue influence, and the provision of false information.

The bench also noted that voters do not have an absolute right to such information and that candidates are not obligated to expose every detail of their lives to public scrutiny.

“A candidate’s right to privacy would still survive regarding matters which are of no concern to the voter or are irrelevant to his or her candidature for public office,” the court said.

“In that respect, the non-disclosure of each and every asset owned by a candidate would not amount to a defect, much less a defect of a substantial character," it added.

The Supreme Court clarified that candidates must disclose their “highly valued assets” to inform voters about their lifestyles. It also noted that there is no blanket rule regarding the disclosure of a candidate’s assets and that each case would have to be judged on its merits.

09 Apr 2024