Lawmakers' Assets Known, Time to Talk of Income Source: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court's observations come on a petition that argued it was time for the court to raise the bar for elected representatives and candidates should be made to declare their source of income too.

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Lawmakers' Assets Known, Time to Talk of Income Source: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will decide if lawmakers be made to declare their sources of income.

NEW DELHI:  Why should aspiring lawmakers get "immunity" from disclosing their source of income, the Supreme Court questioned today while hearing a petition that cited instances of lawmakers declaring only a sharp increase in the value of their assets. The court's observation comes a day after it was told 7 parliamentarians and 98 legislators were being investigated by tax authorities for disproportionate assets.

Fifteen years ago, the top court had mandated that everyone contesting elections for a public office would have to come clean on their education, criminal record and assets. The NGO, Lok Pahari, which filed the petition, argued it was time for the court to raise the bar for elected representatives and candidates should be made to declare their source of income too.

The court observed that if a person elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014 files an affidavit in 2019 elections that reflects an exponential increase in the assets, say 10 times or 5 times, then the source of such assets needs to be investigated.

"People who want to become legislators... should they get immunity," the court asked. It has reserved its judgment on disclosure of source of income by candidates contesting polls.

The government's top law officer KK Venugopal said the central board of direct taxes was serious about disproportionate assets and did investigate affidavits filed by the candidates if there are any discrepancies. It was as part of this exercise that the tax authorities are probing 105 lawmakers because their asset increase was disproportionate to their income.

Attorney General Venugopal, however, contended that the court that individual's income tax returns could not be made public by tax authorities under the existing law.

The affidavit by the tax authorities was filed yesterday after the court had reprimanded the central government's "attitude" of not disclosing information on action taken by it against politicians, some of whose assets had seen a massive jump between two elections.

The court had then observed that though the government was saying that it was not averse to electoral reforms, it has not placed the necessary details. Even the information furnished before it in an affidavit by the CBDT was "not complete", it had added.

 

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