Privacy vs. Electoral Transparency: Supreme Court’s Ruling

Privacy vs. Electoral Transparency: Supreme Court’s Ruling


The Supreme Court of India recently asserted that electoral candidates are not obliged to disclose every movable asset they own, citing their right to privacy from voters.

GS-02 (Polity)

Key highlights:

  • The case stemmed from a petition filed by an MLA from Arunachal Pradesh challenging a 2023 Guwahati High Court ruling that nullified his election for failing to declare three vehicles as assets in his affidavit filed under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • The petitioner was accused of committing a “corrupt practice” under Section 123 of the Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951, by not disclosing ownership of the vehicles.
  • The Supreme Court held that a candidate’s decision to maintain privacy on matters irrelevant to their candidacy did not constitute a “corrupt practice” or a substantial defect under Section 36(4) of the 1951 Act.
  • However, the Court emphasized voters’ right to access essential information for making informed voting decisions.

Right to Privacy:

  • The right to privacy safeguards individuals from interference in their personal lives by both State and non-state entities, enabling them to make autonomous life choices.
  • The Supreme Court affirmed the right to privacy as fundamental in the 2017 K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India case, asserting its intrinsic connection to the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21.

RPA 1951:

  • The Representation of People Act (RPA) of 1951 governs electoral conduct, qualifications, and disqualifications of elected representatives in India.
  • It regulates conduct of elections, qualifications and disqualifications for parliamentary or legislative membership.
  • It also provides measures to curb corrupt practices and other electoral offenses.
  • It lays for procedure for resolving election-related disputes.
  • Significance:
    • It ensures effective functioning of Indian democracy by prohibiting individuals with criminal backgrounds from participating in representative bodies, thereby purifying Indian politics.
    • It mandates that every candidate discloses their assets and liabilities while maintaining a record of election expenses, promoting transparency and accountability in the candidate’s financial dealings.
    • Furthermore, this provision prevents corrupt activities such as booth capturing, bribery, or inciting enmity, thereby safeguarding the integrity and fairness of the electoral process.
    • Moreover, the act stipulates that only political parties registered under section 29A of the RPA Act, 1951 are eligible to receive electoral bonds, thereby enhancing transparency in electoral funding.