Observing that the State Election Commission does not want to exercise its independent powers, Madras High Court today directed the registry to place ‘farce’ disclosure of wealth by candidates to the Chief Justice for appropriate orders, to be refered to a Division bench.
On November 30, acting on a petition by one Pon Thangavelu on alleged property tax evasion by a councillor of Injambakkam here, the Court had directed SEC to produce the statement of declaration of assets made by elected councillors from 2006 to 2016 in Chennai.
When the matter came up today, the Judge asked SEC’s counsel if it had any mechanism to find out if wealth details disclosed by candidates who file nominations are true,to which he replied there was no such law prevailing on the date and no mechanism to verify the same at the time of nomination.
Counsel said that if the details were found incorrect, his nomination can be rejected and if this was found during his tenure, he can be disqualified
Thangavelu had submitted that due to rampant corruption and maladministration in the running of Chennai Corporation, he had incurred a huge monetary loss in the December 2015 floods, which inundated his house.
He had met the Mayor and Coporation Commissioner many times to impress upon them the need to prevent middlemen and councilors in the affairs of the Corporation, whose activities had hampered basic amenities he was entitled as a taxpayer.
The stock answer was that the corporation has no proper revenue and local councilors were trying their best to provide good and quality service.
He said his enquiries revealed Annamalai had ‘misused’ his official position and forced the authorities to assess tax at a very less amount for his nine properties at Injambakkam.
So he sent a representation to the authorities, informing them of the illegal assessment, to cancel it, reassess the tax and recover the correct property tax from him.
When the matter came up today,the judge examined property details of the councillor submitted by the petitioner and Annamalai’s declaration of not having any properties and said his declaration shocked the conscience of the court.
“He has stated that he does not have any property on his own whereas the documents produced by the petitioner shows he has properties. It only goes to show that the declaration is only a farce and there is no mechanism in the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission to verify the claims.”
Stating that the Election Commission should verify if the information furnished by candidates is true or not and need not wait for objections given by rivals, the Judge said the EC need not wait for the opposition party to object. Therefore there should be a mechanism to verify the declaration.
The judge said though the petitioner leveled charges against a councillor, the court had expanded the scope in respect of all councillors elected from 2006 as public interest is involved in it.
The judge also directed the Commissioner of Police to give protection to the petitioner as there was a possibility of threat of musclemen engaged by the councillor.