Voters have right to know edu qualification of candidates: Supreme Court

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Voters have a fundamental right to know the academic qualification of a candidate and any false declaration on this count can warrant rejection of nomination papers, the Supreme Court has held.

“Every voter has a fundamental right to know about the educational qualification of a candidate. It is also clear from the provisions of the Act, Rules and Form 26 that there is a duty cast on the candidates to give correct information about their educational qualifications,” a bench comprising Justices A R Dave and L Nageswara Rao said.

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The apex court also ruled that if there are only two candidates in the fray and it is proved that the returned candidate’s nomination papers have been “improperly accepted”, then the one who lost the poll does not need to produce proof that the election has been materially affected.

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This verdict assumes significance in light of continuing mystery around educational qualifications of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Textiles Minister, Smriti Irani.

The verdict came on two cross appeals filed by Mairembam Prithviraj alias Prithviraj Singh and Pukhrem Sharatchandra Singh against each other challenging the judgment of the High Court of Manipur.

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The High Court had declared as “void” the election of Prithviraj, who had contested the 2012 polls on a Nationalist Congress Party ticket against Congress nominee Sharatchandra from Moirang Assembly seat in Manipur.

It was alleged that Prithviraj, in his nomination papers, had said he was an MBA, which was found to be incorrect.

Upholding the High Court verdict, Justice Rao, writing the verdict for the apex court bench, said it was not “in dispute that the Appellant did not study MBA in Mysore University” and the plea that it was a “clerical error” cannot be accepted.

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“The contention of the Appellant that the declaration relating to his educational qualification in the affidavit is a clerical error cannot be accepted. It is not an error committed once. Since 2008, the Appellant was making the statement that he has an MBA degree. The information provided by him in the affidavit filed in Form 26 would amount to a false declaration. The said false declaration cannot be said to be a defect which is not substantial…,” the bench said.

(With PTI inputs)

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