Writ Petition (Civil) No. 289 of 2005. Case: Manoj Narula Vs Union of India (UOI). Supreme Court (India)

Case NumberWrit Petition (Civil) No. 289 of 2005
JudgesR.M. Lodha, C.J.I., Dipak Misra, Sharad Arvind Bobde, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur JJ.
IssueRepresentation of the People Act, 1951 - Sections 8, 8A, 8B, 8B(1), 8B(2), 8(1), 8(2), 8(3), 8(4), 36, 36(2), 125, 135, 135A, 136(2), 153A, 171E, 171F, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D, 376(1), 376(2), 498A, 505(2), 505(3); Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 - Section 6A; Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976 - Sections 4, 55; Prevention of ...
Judgement DateAugust 27, 2014
CourtSupreme Court (India)


Dipak Misra, J.

1. A democratic polity, as understood in its quintessential purity, is conceptually abhorrent to corruption and, especially corruption at high places, and repulsive to the idea of criminalization of politics as it corrodes the legitimacy of the collective ethos, frustrates the hopes and aspirations of the citizens and has the potentiality to obstruct, if not derail, the rule of law. Democracy, which has been best defined as the Government of the People, by the People and for the People, expects prevalence of genuine orderliness, positive propriety, dedicated discipline and sanguine sanctity by constant affirmance of constitutional morality which is the pillar stone of good governance. While dealing with the concept of democracy, the majority in Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain AIR 1975 SC 2299, stated that 'democracy' as an essential feature of the Constitution is unassailable. The said principle was reiterated in T.N. Seshan, CEC of India v. Union of India and Ors. (1995) 4 SCC 611 and Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India and Ors. AIR 2006 SC 3127. It was pronounced with asseveration that democracy is the basic and fundamental structure of the Constitution. There is no shadow of doubt that democracy in India is a product of the rule of law and aspires to establish an egalitarian social order. It is not only a political philosophy but also an embodiment of constitutional philosophy. In People's Union for Civil Liberties and Anr. v. Union of India and Anr. (2013) 10 SCC 1, while holding the voters' rights not to vote for any of the candidates, the Court observed that democracy and free elections are a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and, thereafter, proceeded to lay down that democracy being the basic feature of our constitutional set-up, there can be no two opinions that free and fair elections would alone guarantee the growth of a healthy democracy in the country. The term "fair" denotes equal opportunity to all people. Universal adult suffrage conferred on the citizens of India by the Constitution has made it possible for millions of individual voters to participate in the governance of our country. For democracy to survive, it is fundamental that the best available men should be chosen as the people's representatives for the proper governance of the country and the same can be best achieved through men of high moral and ethical values who win the elections on a positive vote. Emphasizing on a vibrant democracy, the Court observed that the voter must be given an opportunity to choose none of the above (NOTA) button, which will indeed compel the political parties to nominate a sound candidate. Accordingly, the principle of the dire need of negative voting was emphasised. The significance of free and fair election and the necessity of the electorate to have candidates of high moral and ethical values was re-asserted. In this regard, it may be stated that the health of democracy, a cherished constitutional value, has to be protected, preserved and sustained, and for that purpose, instilment of certain norms in the marrows of the collective is absolutely necessitous.


2. We have commenced our judgment with the aforesaid prologue as the present writ petition Under Article 32 of the Constitution was filed by the Petitioner as pro bono publico assailing the appointment of some of the original Respondents as Ministers to the Council of Ministers of Union of India despite their involvement in serious and heinous crimes. On 24.3.2006, when the matter was listed before the Bench presided by the learned Chief Justice, the following order came to be passed:

A point of great public importance has been raised in this petition. Broadly, the point is about the legality of the person with criminal background and/or charged with offences involving moral turpitude being appointed as ministers in Central and State Governments.

We have heard in brief Mr. Rakesh Dwivedi, learned senior Counsel who was. appointed as amicus curiae to assist the Court, as also the learned Solicitor General, appearing for the Union of India, and Mr. Gopal Subramaniam, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing on behalf of the Attorney General for India. Having regard to the magnitude of the problem and its vital importance, it is but proper that the petition is heard by a Bench of five Judges.

We issue notice to Union of India. Formal notice need not be issued since the Union of India is represented by learned Solicitor General.

Notices shall also be issued to the Advocates General of all the States. The notice shall state that the State Governments and the Union of India may file their affidavits along with relevant material within four weeks of service of notice.

The Prime Minister and some of the Ministers in Union Cabinet have been arrayed as party Respondents 2 to 7. It is not necessary to implead individual ministers and/or Prime Minister for deciding the question above-named. Accordingly, Respondent Nos. 2 to 7 are deleted from the array of parties.

List the case after the Court reopens after the summer vacation for directions as to fixing a date for its being placed before the Constitution Bench.

In view of the aforesaid order and the subsequent orders, the matter has been placed before us. Considering the controversy raised, we are required to interpret the scope and purpose of Articles 75 and 164 of the Constitution, regard being had to the text, context, scheme and spirit of the Constitution.


3. In the beginning, we have emphasized on the concept of democracy which is the corner stone of the Constitution. There are certain features absence of which can erode the fundamental values of democracy. One of them is holding of free and fair election by adult franchise in a periodical manner as has been held in Mohinder Singh Gill and Anr. v. Chief Election Commissioner, New Delhi and Ors. (1978) 1 SCC 405, for it is the heart and soul of the parliamentary system. In the said case, Krishna Iyer, J. quoted with approval the statement of Sir Winston Churchill which is as follows:

At the bottom of all tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper-no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of the point.

4. In Raghbir Singh Gill v. S. Gurcharan Singh Tohra AIR 1980 SC 1362, the learned Judges, after referring to Mohinder Singh Gill's case, stated that nothing can diminish the overwhelming importance of the cross or preference indicated by the dumb sealed lip voter. That is his right and the trust reposed by the Constitution in him is that he will act as a responsible citizen choosing his masters for governing the country.

5. This Court has laid emphasis on the purity of elections in Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms and Anr. (2002) 5 SCC 294 and, in that context, has observed that elections in this country are fought with the help of money power which is gathered from black sources and once elected to power, it becomes easy to collect tons of black money which is used for retaining power and for re-election. The Court further observed that if on an affidavit a candidate is required to disclose the assets held by him at the time of election, the voter can decide whether he should be re-elected. Thereafter, as regards the purity of election, the Court observed that to maintain purity of elections and, in particular, to bring transparency in the process of election, the Commission can ask the candidates about the expenditure incurred by the political parties, and the voters would have basic elementary right to know full particulars of a candidate who is to represent them in Parliament where laws to bind their liberty and property may be enacted because the right to get information in a democracy is recognised all throughout and it is a natural right flowing from the concept of democracy. Elaborating further, the Court opined that a voter has a right to know the antecedents including the criminal past of his candidate contesting election for MP or MLA as it is fundamental and basic for the survival of democracy, for he may think over before making his choice of electing law-breakers as lawmakers. Eventually, the Court directed the Election Commission to exercise its power Under Article 324 of the Constitution requiring the candidate to furnish information pertaining to the fact whether the candidate has been convicted/acquitted/discharged of any criminal offence in the past, if any, and whether he has been punished with imprisonment or fine; whether the candidate is accused in any pending case of any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more, and in which charge is framed or cognizance is taken by the court of law; and certain other information.

6. From the aforesaid authorities, it is perceivable that while giving emphasis on the sanctity of election, the Court has expressed its concern with regard to various facets of the candidates who contest the election and seek votes.


7. Criminalisation of politics is an anathema to the sacredness of democracy. Commenting on criminalization of politics, the Court, in Dinesh Trivedi, M.P. and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. (1997) 4 SCC 306, lamented the faults and imperfections which have impeded the country in reaching the expectations which heralded its conception. While identifying one of the primary causes, the Court referred to the report of N.N. Vohra Committee that was submitted on 5.10.1993. The Court noted that the growth and spread of crime syndicates in Indian society has been pervasive and the criminal elements have developed an extensive network of contacts at many a sphere. The Court, further referring to the report, found that the Report reveals several alarming and deeply disturbing trends...

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