Kerala High Court: In a writ filed by the petitioner against an order of the Kerala State Election Commission, according to which the petitioner had defected and was disqualified to be a member of the Ramamangalam Gama Panchayat and also from contesting as candidate in an election to any local authority for a period of six years as per Kerala Local Authorities (Prohibition of Defection) Act, 1999, a Single Judge Bench comprising of K. Vinod Chandran, J. upheld the Commission’s order and dismissed the petition.

The petitioner contended that her disqualification was invalid since by the time the Election Commission was approached the term of council had expired. It was pointed out that “the disqualification is only with reference to the membership of the Committee in office for a valid term of five years and cannot be extended to a subsequent period for which a fresh election is conducted.”

The respondent on the other hand argued that there was a difference between disqualifications which are co-terminus with the term of office of a committee and those that extend beyond the term of office, this case falling in the latter category because the Act specifically provided for disqualification beyond a period of 6 years even beyond the term of the elected committee.

The Court held that if it was to sustain the petitioner’s contention, then towards the expiry of the term of office the Committee members would indulge in defection against which there would lay no action. Moreover, it would require the Court to add words to the provision: “for the term then in office” which is not permissible. “The intention clearly was to disqualify a member who has defected from continuing in that committee and in the subsequent committee too, since the disqualification runs for six years, while the term of the committee is 5 years.” [Jessie Raju v. Communist Party of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Ker 7860, decided on June 28, 2017]

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