(1.)Short but important question involved in these matters is _ in a nation wedded to republican and democratic form of government, where election as a Member of Parliament or as a Member of Legislative Assembly is of utmost importance for governance of the country, whether, before casting votes, voters have a right to know relevant particulars of their candidates Further connected question is _ whether the High Court had jurisdiction to issue directions, as stated below, in a writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India
(2.)Before dealing with the aforesaid questions, we would refer to the brief facts as alleged by the Petitioner-Association for Democratic Reforms in Writ Petition No. 7257 of 1999 filed before the High Court of Delhi for direction to implement the recommendations made by the Law Commission in its 170th Report and to make necessary changes under Rule 4 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. It has been pointed out that Law Commission of India, had, at the request of Government of India, undertaken comprehensive study of the measures required to expedite hearing of election petitions and to have a thorough review of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act") so as to make the electoral process more fair, transparent and equitable and to reduce the distortions and evils that have crept into the Indian electoral system and to identify the areas where the legal provisions required strengthening and improvement. It is pointed out that Law Commission has made recommendation for debarring a candidate from contesting an election if charges have been framed against him by a Court in respect of certain offences and necessity for a candidate seeking to contest election to furnish details regarding criminal cases, if any, pending against him. It has also suggested that true and correct statement of assets owned by the candidate, his/her spouse and dependent relations should also be disclosed. Petitioner has also referred Para 6.2 of the report of the Vohra Committee of the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, which reads as follows:-
"6.2 Like the Director CBI, the DIB has also stated that there has been a rapid spread and growth of criminal gangs, armed senas, drug Mafias, smuggling gang, drug peddlers and economic lobbies in the country which have, over the years, developed an extensive network of contacts with the bureaucrats/Government functionaries at the local levels, politicians, media persons and strategically located individuals in the non State sector. Some of these Syndicates also have international linkages, including the foreign intelligence agencies. In this context the DIB have given the following examples _
(i) In certain States like Bihar, Haryana and UP, these gangs enjoy the patronage of local level politicians, cutting across party lines and the protection of Governmental functionaries. Some political leaders become the leaders of these gangs, armed senas and over the year get themselves elected to local bodies State Assemblies and the national Parliament. Resultantly, such elements have acquired considerable political clout seriously jeopardising the smooth functioning of the administration and the safety of life and property of the common man causing a sense of despair and alienation among the people;
(ii) The big smuggling Syndicates having international linkages have spread into and infected the various economic and financial activities, including havala transactions, circulation of black money and operations of a vicious parallel economy causing serious damage to the economic fibre of the country. These Syndicates have acquired substantial financial and muscle power and social respectability and have successfully corrupted the Government machinery at all levels and yield enough influence to make the task of Investigating and Prosecuting agencies extremely difficult; even the members of the Judicial system have not escaped the embrace of the Mafia;
(iii) Certain elements of the Mafia have shifted to narcotics, drugs and weapon smuggling and established narco-terrorism networks specially in the States of J and K, Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The cost of contesting elections has thrown the politician into the lap of these elements and led to a grave compromise by officials of the preventive/detective systems. The virus has spread to almost all the centres in the country, the coastal and the border States have been particularly affected;
(iv) The Bombay bomb blast case and the communal riots in Surat and Ahmedabad have demonstrated how the India underworld has been exploited by the Pak ISI and the latter's network in UAE to cause sabotage subversion and communal tension in various parts of the country. The investigations into the Bombay bomb blast cases have revealed expensive linkages of the underworld in the various governmental agencies, political circles, business sector and the film world".
(3.)It is also contended that despite the Reports of the Law Commission and Vohra Committee, successive governments have failed to take any action and, therefore, petition was filed for implementation of the said reports and for a direction to the Election Commission to make mandatory for every candidate to provide information by amending Form 2-A to 2-E prescribed under the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. After hearing the parties, the High Court by judgment and order dated 2nd November, 2000, held that it is the function of the Parliament to make necessary amendments in the Representation of the People Act, 1951 or the Election Rules and, therefore, Court cannot pass any order, as prayed, for amending the Act or the Rules.