SC declines plea for verification of poll candidates' assets

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday declined a PIL by the former top cop Julio Riberio and other eminent people seeking setting up of a machinery to verify the assets declared by the winning candidates and three top losing candidates in a constituency in parliamentary and state assembly polls.

"If we ask the Election Commission to verify the assets of the contesting candidates running into crores of rupees, it will submerge the Election Commission into doing these verifications only and (it) will not be able to do any other thing," said the bench of Chief Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit declining the PIL.

Asking Riberio and other eminent people to continue with their "crusade outside the court", Chief Justice Thakur said: "Verification is a cumbersome process, say of a candidate disclosing possessing assets worth Rs.300 crores. What purpose it will serve? How it will restore parity between rich and the common man?"

Asking the petitioner`s counsel if they wanted the Election Commission to run after the candidates to verify the assets they have declared in the affidavits along with their nominations papers, the bench said that the apex court has acealready gone to the extent of saying that if there is a wrongful or false declaration (of assets), then that will be ground for setting aside their election.

Besides Ribeiro, other PIL petitioners are former CAG Vijay K. Shunglu, former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy (retd.), former director generals of police I.C.Dwivedi and Prakash Singh, former union secretaries S.A.T.Rizvi and Arvind Verma, former Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission chairman S.R. Lakha, IIT-Kharagpur`s former director Prof. S.K.Dubey, Prof. H.C.Pandey, former IPS officer S.N.Singh, senior journalists Syeed Masoof Ul Zaidi and Arunesh Kumar Mishra.

The petitioners had sought the setting up of a machinery that would have the officials from the Central Bureau of Investigation, and Customs and Central Excise and the officers from other departments to man it.

They had contended that if upon verification it was found that candidates winning or three others losing candidates immediately after him - are possessing assets beyond what they have declared then they should be prosecuteA and proceedings should be initiated for the removal of the winning candidate from the membership of the legislature to which he has been elected.

The petition had further sought the prosecution of the lawmakers under the Prevention of Corruption Act if it was found that that they possessed assets disproportionate to their known sources of income on the presumption that they had acquired them through alleged corrupt mean during their stint as public servants.

Addressing another plea by the petitioners, the court asked: "You want rich men be excluded from contesting election so that common man gets a chance."

"How a common man gets disabled from contesting election (if rich is in the fray). How a common man can is enabled if rich man is ousted from contesting election," it asked.