The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought urgent answers from the government over why it hadn’t yet implemented some key court mandated steps to further cleanse the electoral process, but it is highly unlikely that these reforms will take off before the impending polls. A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi demanded answers from the legislative department of the law ministry within two weeks on why its February 2018 order has not yet been implemented. The court had told the government to create a permanent mechanism to monitor and scrutinise disproportionate assets held by elected lawmakers, treat non-disclosure of information on assets as a corrupt practice that can unduly influence a voter, and make it mandatory for all candidates to reveal information regarding their disqualification, if any, under any law.
The bench dubbed the government’s failure to usher in these changes as defiance of the court’s orders and sought quick answers, possibly to ensure that these changes were brought about before the general elections. But that seems highly unlikely given that the poll schedule has already been announced, and it kicks off on April 11. Filing of nominations and withdrawals will begin soon. The window for implementing any court orders is hence very narrow. NGO Lok Prahari, on whose plea the court had passed the reforms order on February 16 last year, approached the Supreme Court through its secretary SN Shukla, a retired bureaucrat, complaining that the government has only implemented a few steps but not the others.
The government has changed Form 26 to ensure that those filing nominations declare the sources of income of their spouses and dependent children along with their own. The form also makes it mandatory for a candidate to reveal details of any contract that he or his immediate family may have signed with the government or any public body. However, the other changes were yet to take effect, Shukla told the CJI-led bench that also comprised justices Deepak Gupta and Sajiv Khanna. Lok Prahari had moved a contempt application against the government in October. The court finally heard it on Tuesday.