Krishnamoorthy v. Sivakumar – Emphasis on informed citizenry

Prachi Kumari

The Supreme Court in the case of Krishnamoorthy V. Sivakumar & Ors (([{Civil Appeal No. 1478 0f 2015 and SLP (C) No. 14918 of 2009} (Supreme Court, 05/02/2015)])). held that non-disclosure of criminal antecedent by a candidate will make his election null and void in case it is mandated by law.

In the present case, the validity of the election was called in question on the sole ground that Appellant had filed a false declaration suppressing the details of criminal cases pending trial against him and, therefore, his nomination deserved to be rejected, since, such disclosure was made mandatory by a Notification bearing S.O. No. 43/2006/TNSEC/EG dated 1.9.2006. Election Tribunal had already declared his election null and void and decision was upheld by Madras High Court. Krishnamoorthy came to the Supreme Court in appeal challenging the same. The judgment was delivered by a division bench of Justice Deepak Mishra and Justice Prafulla C Pant.

The court, in the present case observed: “In a respectable and elevated constitutional democracy purity of election, probity in governance, sanctity of individual dignity, sacrosanctity of rule of law, certainty and sustenance of independence of judiciary, efficiency and acceptability of bureaucracy, credibility of institutions, integrity and respectability of those who run the institutions and prevalence of mutual deference among all the wings of the State are absolutely significant, in a way, imperative. They are not only to be treated as essential concepts and remembered as glorious precepts but also to be practised so that in the conduct of every individual they are concretely and fruitfully manifested. The crucial recognised ideal which is required to be realised is eradication of criminalisation of politics and corruption in public life. When criminality enters into the grass-root level as well as at the higher levels there is a feeling that ‘monstrosity’ is likely to wither away the multitude and eventually usher in a dreadful fear that would rule supreme creating an incurable chasm in the spine of the whole citizenry. In such a situation the generation of today, in its effervescent ambition and volcanic fury, smothers the hopes, aspirations and values of tomorrow’s generation and contaminate them with the idea to pave the path of the past, possibly thinking, that is the noble tradition and corruption can be a way of life and one can get away with it by a well decorated exterior. But, an intervening and pregnant one, there is a great protector, and an unforgiving one, on certain occasions and some situations, to interdict – ‘The law’, the mightiest sovereign in a civilised society.”

In earlier cases of Union of India V. Association for Democratic Reforms (([2002] 5 SCC 294))and People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) & Another V. Union of India and Another (([2003] 4 SCC 399))the court has held that Citizens have a right to know about public functionaries and candidates for office, including their assets and criminal and educational backgrounds, which right is derived from the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.

Some more pronouncements including Mohinder Singh Gill V. Chief Election Commissioner (([1978] 1 SCC 405)), Kanhiya Lal Omar V. R.K. Trivedi (([1985] 4 SCC 628))and Common Cause V. Union of India (([1996] 2 SCC 752))are also relevant here where the court opined thus: “If right to telecast and right to view sport games and the right to impart such information is considered to be part and parcel of Article 19(1)(a), we fail to understand why the right of a citizen/voter — a little man — to know about the antecedents of his candidate cannot be held to be a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a). In our view, democracy cannot survive without free and fair election, without free and fairly informed voters.

Indeed, it is requirement of a vibrant democracy to have an informed citizenry and the present judgment attempts towards fulfilling this requirement.