In its September 13, 2013, order on Resurgence India’s petition that candidates cannot leave any field blank, the Supreme Court had said a candidate must take “the minimum effort to explicitly remark as ‘NIL’, ‘Not Applicable’ or ‘Not known’ in the columns if he desires that his nomination paper be accepted by the Returning Officer. The candidate should not withhold any information; he is free to declare he does not know.”
In past elections, Modi had left the spouse field blank. “Even back then he never claimed he was single, but only left the field blank,” said a top BJP leader. With that option no more available, Modi’s legal team decided it was best for him to come clean.
Modi, however, said he did not know any other information about his wife or her income. This, Prof Jagdeep Chokkar of the Association of Democratic Reforms said, was not a problem. Resurgence India had in the past worked with ADR.
“The point is a candidate should not give false information,” said the retired IIM-A professor. “It is quite possible for a husband not to know details of his wife’s assets and income. So what Modi has done is not wrong.”
Election Commission rules are also fine with a candidate “not knowing” his wife’s income, IT returns or PAN details. “We are okay with Modi saying he is not aware of his wife’s income but he should not be furnishing any incorrect information about her,” said an official.
The official also added that the returning officer did not have the power to reject a nomination for incorrect information. “The SC order does not empower the Returning officer to reject the papers, but it certainly could have led to needless litigation,” said the official.
The BJP’s legal eagles said too much fuss is being made about the declaration. “For record, it was child marriage that happened when Modi was 17. Why are other parties making such a fuss? Modi did not commit any crime. It is a very private matter,” said BJP leader and lawyer Pinky Anand.
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