Speedy disposal of election petitions must be ensured: Madras HC

High Court of Madras: In its recent judgment, a Single Bench of M. Venugopal, J. upheld the election of DMK working President M.K. Stalin from the Kolathur assembly constituency during the State Assembly Election held on April 13, 2011.

The petition sought to declare the election of DMK candidate as null and void on account of misuse of official machinery, declaration of false expenditure account and illegal distribution of money among the voters, violating the directives of the Election Commission of India. In his submission, the petitioner contended that the police force, the ground level polling staff as well as the Returning Officer were reluctant in taking any action against the respondent due to his political strength, consequent to the declaration of being duly elected from the constituency. The respondent denied all charges levied on him and submitted that the sources of the petitioner’s claims were unfounded, lacked merit or carried no evidentiary value. Even if it was to be believed that the respondent’s party men did engage in any such illegal activity as claimed by the petitioner, the respondent contends that it was done without his knowledge and consent and he could not even be held vicariously liable.

The Court observed that a consent cannot be inferred from mere knowledge alone in law and must be proved by strong evidence. The lack of such principles would be a “categorical averment”. Further, it held the evidence extended by the petitioner to prove their allegation of money distribution by the Stalin’s party in a novel way of community feedings, courier service, currency in the newspaper, arathi plate contributions and slips to the voters to purchase consumer items, were unsatisfactory, unconvincing and unacceptable. It dismissed the petition on account of the allegations of corrupt practice being vague and based on mere assumption, suspicion and simmering doubt.

The Court took this litigation as an opportunity to point out that the Rules of Madras High Court on Election Petition should include conclusion of trial of every election petition within six months of institution and develop the procedure into a more effective and efficacious one. [Saidai Sa. Duraisamy v. Stalin M.K., 2017 SCC OnLine Mad 1832, order pronounced on 01.06.2017]

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