Case Briefs
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People’s Union For Civil Liberties vs Union Of India & Anr.

Author: Shefali Chaudhary, 2nd year student at ICFAI University, Dehradun.

Citation: AIR (2004) SC 456

Date of Decision: December 16, 2003

Original copy: View

Bench: S. Rajendra Babu, G. P. Mathur

Statutes Involved: Representation of People Act, 1951, Constitution of India, 1950


Issues in Question:

Background of the Case:

  • The People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) challenged the legitimacy of Section 33B of the Representation of People Act, 1951. Section 33B gave that, despite a judgment or request of the court or Election Commission, a political applicant is not bound to reveal any data separated from that needed under the Act.
  • In Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms, (2002) 3 S.C.R. 294, the Supreme Court of India perceived that the right to know about the applicants falls inside the right to information under the right to freedom of speech and expression depicted in Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.
  • It further demonstrated that data about the criminal background of the applicant, resources and liabilities of candidates and their relatives, and academic information of applicants ought to be accessible to the citizens as a feature of their right. 
  • The Election Commission gave directives to impact this judgment. Notwithstanding, Section 33B made insufficient judgment in this case and other directives. In this way, the PUCL challenged Section 33B as violative of Article 19(1)(a).


  • The Supreme Court of India emphasized that Article 19(1)(a) incorporates the right of citizens to have essential data about electing applicants. In a Democratic  system, the desire of citizens is communicated in intermittent elections. Accessibility of essential data about the electing applicant empowers citizens to decide on a choice and furthermore prepares for public discussions.
  • This thus goes far in advancing the freedom of speech and expression, and furthermore guarantees the integrity of elections in a democratic system. Further, freedom to speech and expression isn’t restricted to oral or written, yet additionally incorporates casting of votes as a type of expression.
  • Despite the fact that the right to cast a vote itself may not be a fundamental right, the expression of thoughts through the vote is a part of freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a).  
  • A liberal way to deal with the disclosure of data about an applicant is attractive. But, convincing an individual to unveil his information  infringes his right of privacy. There is a need to define a boundary between the citizens’ right and the applicant’s privacy policy.
  • The council should set out the criteria on which data should be revealed. Without such a law, on account of Union of India v. Relationship for Democratic Reforms, (2002) 3 S.C.R. 294, the Court gave certain criteria for disclosure to offer impact  under Article 19(1)(a).
  1. a) The Election Commission needs to work as per the judgement in this case until the legislature forms different laws. 
  2. b) While these criterias play an important role in forming new laws, the governing body should give them due importance.
  • The Court held in this case  that Section 33B of the Representation of People Act, 1951, was unlawful. Initially, it froze and deteriorated the right to information by invalidating the impact of any judgment requiring disclosure of information. All things considered, the right to information is a powerful right that ought to be permitted to develop. 
  • Furthermore, the Act deficiently required disclosure of information as for criminal background of the electing person, and resources and liabilities of applicant  and their companion and kids. 
  • In this case, the Court also held that by not disclosing the education of the applicant, it can’t be said that Article 19(1)(a) has been violated. The Court guided the Election Commission to give amended directions as per the law set down in this judgment.

Critical Analysis: 

  • The Supreme Court of India held that Indian citizens have a right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution to acquire data about political candidates. The People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) challenged the legitimacy of a 1951 law, which expressed that political applicants are not bound to tell any data not needed under the law. 
  • In this case the Supreme Court contemplated that the accessibility of essential data about the applicant empowers voters  to make a choice and furthermore prepares for public discussions about the applicant.

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