Monday, August 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

President okays poll Ordinance
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
The Union Cabinet having made its viewpoint clear by returning the Ordinance to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1951, without any changes yesterday, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has given his consent for it to be promulgated.

The President is understood to have put his seal to the controversial Ordinance soon after he received the Cabinet’s recommendation in this regard last night. Attorney-General Soli J. Sorabjee met the President before he put his seal on the Ordinance.

The Attorney-General, reports suggested, told the President that the measure was based on the consensus reached at the all-party meeting and any suggestion of his could not be taken up at the time of its legislation in Parliament. He is understood to have also conveyed to the President that the government wants no confrontation with him.

The Ordinance, which had earlier been returned by Dr Kalam with some enquiries, had been approved by the Union Cabinet yesterday without any changes and was returned to the President with a request that it be promulgated in its present form under Article 123 of the Constitution.

The Cabinet said the draft Ordinance was a replica of the Peoples’ Representation Bill, 2002, which had been listed for introduction in the Lok Sabha on August 12, but could not be introduced as the monsoon session of Parliament was adjourned sine die ahead of schedule.

With the promulgation of the Ordinance, the candidates fighting elections would not have to declare their assets. However, those who get elected would be under obligation to do so.

The Cabinet had first sent the draft ordinance to the President on August 16. It was sent back after hearing the views of Mr Sorabjee and Additional Solicitor-General Kirit Rawal on the queries raised by Dr Kalam, who had argued that it had not incorporated the recommendations of the Supreme Court.

Dr Kalam had noted that the provisions of the Ordinance seeking information from candidates were not “worthy in consonance with the prescriptive requirements laid down by the Supreme Court.” He said of the three areas of information specified by the court in May — criminal antecedents, financial background and educational qualifications - the draft Ordinance incorporated only the points relating to criminal offences.

His specific queries were whether only the winning candidate should declare his personal assets, whether all candidates should declare their educational qualifications and whether candidates who had been convicted in more than two criminal cases should be disqualified.

The President took objection to the fact that in respect of the requirement of declaration of assets and liabilities, the Ordinance proposed by the Cabinet stipulates “such declaration to be made only by elected candidates and not by contesting candidates”. He pointed out that ‘the court’s stipulation that the assets of not only the candidate, but also those of the spouse and dependants, should be declared has not been covered in the proposed Ordinance.

The Ordinance was based on a modification of a draft bill circulated on July 15 after an all-party meeting convened by Law and Justice Minister K. Jana Krishnamurthi on July 8.

The President’s move for clarification followed reservations expressed to him through a petition by several citizens groups who met him last Friday and came away satisfied that he heard their concerns that such an Ordinance was ‘’aimed at denying’’ the voters’ basic right to know the candidates’ antecedents.

The Ordinance has been published in the gazette following the President’s approval.


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