Apex court asks poll candidates to fill in the blanks.
A three- judge bench presided over by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam said leaving blank spaces would render nugatory the right of citizens to " have the necessary information at the time of filing of the nomination paper in order to make a choice of their voting". However, not much should be read in the judgment as a candidate can escape summary rejection if he writes " Nil", " Not Applicable" or " Not Known" instead of leaving the spaces/ columns blank.
" If a candidate fails to fill in the blanks even after the reminder by the returning officer, the nomination paper is fit to be rejected," the bench said.
"... If the Election Commission accepts the nomination papers in spite of blank particulars in the affidavits, it will directly violate the fundamental right of the citizen to know the criminal antecedents, assets and liabilities and educational qualification of the candidate," the bench said, while allowing a PIL by NGO Resurgence India.
On the 2003 Supreme Court judgment in the PUCL case holding that rejection of nomination by the RO for furnishing false information could not be justified, the bench said the case of leaving blank spaces in the affidavit was different.
The 2003 judgment was justified as such a course would leave the candidate handicapped when it came to sufficient opportunity to rebut charges.
" Para 73 of the aforesaid judgment nowhere contemplates a situation where it bars the returning officer to reject the nomination paper on account of filing affidavit with particulars left blank," the bench said, while distinguishing the case at hand.
" Therefore, we hereby clarify that the above said paragraph will not come in the way of the returning officer rejecting the nomination paper if the said affidavit is filed with blank columns.
The candidate must take the minimum effort to explicitly remark ' NIL' or ' Not Applicable' or ' Not known' in the columns and not to leave the particulars blank, if he desires that his nomination paper be accepted by the returning officer," the bench said.
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