Satyamev Jayate - Jinhe Desh Ki Fikr Hai

Power to you

Know a little more about the criminalization of Indian politics. Here is some information that can help you get a better perspective.


Power to you


Holding them accountable Back

In 2009, 157 re-elected MPs declared average assets worth Rs 6 crore. According to a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), there was a 288% increase in average assets of these MPs between 2004 and 2009. However, this information would not have reached the public if the Supreme Court had not passed a landmark order in 2002.

Background of the 2002 Supreme Court order

ADR filed a public interest litigation in 1999, demanding that political candidates contesting central and state elections declare their assets, criminal records and educational qualifications to the public. The High Court of Delhi directed the Election Commission to get this information from the candidates in their affidavits. In its opinion, the disclosure was mandatory under the Constitutional provision guaranteeing citizens the freedom of speech and expression.

The Union of India appealed this judgement in the Supreme Court saying that the High Court did not have the authority to direct the Election Commission to seek information from election candidates. It also argued that citizens do not have the right to know about the background of electoral candidates. In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the Delhi High Court judgement and issued an order directing the Election Commission to make available the criminal, financial and educational records of candidates for political office.

An excerpt from the 2002 Supreme Court order*:

'The Court considered whether or not an elector, a citizen of the country has a fundamental right to receive the information regarding the criminal activities of a candidate to the Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly for making an estimate for himself as to whether the person who is contesting the election has a background making him worthy of his vote, by peeping into the past of the candidate. After considering the relevant submissions and the reports as well as the say of Election Commission, the High Court held that for making a right choice, it is essential that the past of the candidate should not be kept in the dark as it is not in the interest of the democracy and well being of the country.'

Salient features of the 2002 order:

The Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission to provide the following information about the candidates standing for central or state elections:

  • Details of criminal charges
  • Details of assets owned
  • Educational qualifications

The Supreme Court judgement was sought to be partially nullified by the government which passed an ordinance in December 2002 with the support of most of the political parties. This ordinance required disclosure of criminal records, but not of assets and educational qualifications. This was again challenged by ADR and two other petitioners. On March 13, 2003, in a second landmark judgement, the Supreme Court, struck down the ordinance as unconstitutional and restored the earlier order.

To read the 2002 Supreme Court judgement, click here.

*The excerpt from the 2002 Supreme Court order comments on the decision of the High Court made in the same year.



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