Hot Off The PressNews

Many instances have come to the notice of the Election Commission of India wherein Chief Electoral Officers and some other officials working directly in the office of Chief Electoral Officers, e.g., Additional Chief Electoral Officers and Joint Chief Electoral Officers, etc. have been victimised after the elections are over. Ironically, in most such instances the concerned officers had discharged their duties in an impartial manner in order to ensure free, fair, robust and ethical elections. After a comprehensive review of this issue and keeping in view such specific instances, Commission has addressed a communication to all concerned vide its letter No. 154/2020, dated 15-01-2021 inter alia stating: –

(i) The state/UT governments shall invariably obtain prior approval of the Commission, if any disciplinary action is initiated against the Chief Electoral Officers and other officers up to Joint Chief Electoral Officer during their tenure and also up to one year from the expiry of last election conducted by them.

(ii) Commission has also directed that the State/UT government shall not reduce facilities such as vehicle, security and other facilities/amenities provided to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer for proper discharge of his/her duties.

            Commission is sanguine in the expectation that all concerned shall strictly adhere to this regimen in letter as well as in spirit.

Copy of the above instruction is available on the ECI website https://eci.gov.in.


Election Commission

[Press Release dt. 15-01-2021]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A. Muhamed Mustaque J., upholding the decision of the Election Commission, dismissed the present Writ Petitions and clarified the applicability of Kerala Local Authorities (Prohibition of Defection) Act, 1999.

 Brief Facts

Three writ petitions were filed by the members of Ranny-Pazhavangadi Grama Panchayat aggrieved by the decision of the Kerala State Election Commission (for short, the ‘Election Commission’) declaring that the petitioners are disqualified for being members of Ranny-Pazhavangadi Grama Panchayat as provided under Section 3(1)(a) of the Kerala Local Authorities (Prohibition of Defection) Act, 1999 (for short, the ‘Act’) and further disqualified to contest as candidates in any election of the local body for a period of six years.

The cause of action for disqualification arose on 23-5-2017. Abraham from LDF (the party to which the petitioners allegedly belong) was the President of the Grama Panchayat at that time. A No-Confidence Motion was moved against him. Subsequently, a whip was issued by the parties of LDF coalition to all its members. Defying the whip all these petitioners voted in favour of the motion. In defence before the Election Commission, the petitioners alleged that they did not receive the aforementioned whips, hence, no provision of the Act was attracted. With respect to candidature, it was originally admitted by the petitioners that they contested the election as nominees of political parties forming part of the LDF coalition but after closing of the evidence, they filed an application for deleting those admissions by way of amendment.

 Issue

  1. Whether petitioners were independent candidates or supported by political party in question?
  2. Whether the whip issued was conveyed to the petitioners as per Kerala Local Authorities (Prohibition of Defection) Act, 1999?
  3. Whether supporting the no-confidence motion, amount to voluntary giving up of membership under the said Act?

Observation

Placing reliance over the findings of Election Commission, the Court agreed with the submission made by the counsel for respondents that the petitioners contested election with the support of political party and the whip issued, therefore, assumes significance. The Court also accepted the applicability of Rule 3(2)(a) of the Kerala Local Authorities (Disqualification of Defected Members) Rules, 2000 wherein, any person who contested election as a candidate in support of a political party shall be treated as a member of that political party. Further, Court made the following observation with respect to service of whip to the rightful person, as per Kerala Local Authorities (Prohibition of Defection) Act, 1999

“There are two limbs under Section 3(1)(a) of the Act, second limb would be attracted only when there was a valid whip and servicing the whip in a manner referred under Section 3(2) r/w 4(2) of the Rules. The service referred as above is mandatory. There is no dispute in regard to the fact that the whip was not served on the Secretary of the Local Self Government Institutions. Therefore, the second limb cannot be attracted to this matter. The finding of the Election Commission would also show that no copy of the whip was served on the Secretary.”

In reference with issue 3, the Court said,

“The petitioners support to the No Confidence Motion was against the interest of the political parties which supported them as candidates. This amounts to voluntarily giving up of the membership. It is to be noted that there was no dispute on CPI(M), CPI and JD(S) were part of the coalition. Thus acting against the interest of coalition by party members of the constituents of the coalition amount to acting against their own party. The Election Commission entered into a finding based on the materials before it, there was valid whip and the petitioners were aware of such whip. Though such whip cannot be relied to attract second limb of Section 3(1)(a) of the Act, nothing bars the Election Commission for placing reliance on it for disqualifying a member based on the ground referred in the first limb of Section 3(1)(a).

The Court further cited Rama Bhaskaran v. Kerala State Election Commission, 2018(2) KLT 600, Manoj Madhavasseril v. Kerala State Election Commission, 2018(1) KLT 1047 and Chandran v. Kerala State Election Commission, 2019(1) KLT SN 18 and Lizy Valsan v. Suja Salim, 2015 (3) KLT SN 61 in furtherance of its said observation.

Decision

While dismissing the present Writ Petitions, the Court upheld the decision of Election Commission of debarring the petitioners from contesting future elections.[Boby Abraham v. Kerala State Election Commission, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 4507, decided on 15-10-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Full Judge Bench of Priyantha Jayawardena, Vijith K. Malalgoda and Murdu N. B. Fernando, JJ., rejected a motion requesting the court to issue a Sinhala translation of the judgment delivered in the fundamental rights application which was filed alleging that the Proclamation issued by the former President, by Gazette No. 2096/70 as on 09-11-2018 dissolving the Parliament and calling for the election of the Members of Parliament, was contrary to Articles 10, 12(1), 12(2), 14(1)(a), 14(1)(c) and 14(1)(f) of the Constitution.

The instant application was filed against the Attorney-General in terms of Article 35 of the Constitution on the basis that the aforementioned Gazette was issued by the former President, the petitioner being Attorney-at-law had filed the application in the interest of public praying to suspend the operation of the Proclamation issued by the President dissolving the Parliament, to stay the holding of Parliamentary Elections, to declare that the respondent had violated the petitioner’s fundamental rights and to quash the said Proclamation dissolving Parliament.

The Court explained that the petition of the said fundamental rights application in which the judgment was delivered, was filed by Rajavarothiam Sampanthan citing the Attorney-General, the Chairman and the members of the Election Commission as respondents and the petitioner was neither a party nor an Attorney-at-Law who represented any of the parties in the said application. Thus, rejecting the motion the Court held that the petitioner was not entitled under Article 24(3) of the Constitution to obtain a translation of the judgment delivered in the said application.[Aruna Laksiri Unawatuna v. Maithripala Sirisena, SC (FR) Application No. 357 of 2018, decided on 14-10-2020]


Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Election Commission of India approved the broad guidelines for conduct of general/bye-elections during the COVID-19 period.

After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) have been issuing guidelines from time to time.

In their latest circular dated 29-07-2020, MHA has issued comprehensive guidelines/directives to be followed countywide. Similarly, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has also issued SOP on disinfection, sanitization, and prevention for containing COVID-19.

Earlier, Commission, on 17-07-2020, had sought views/suggestions of National/State Political Parties till 31-07-2020 and had further extended the period टिल 11-08- 2020 on request of the Political parties. Commission has considered the views/suggestions received from various Political Parties and Chief Electoral Officers of States/UTs on the election campaign and public meetings.

Salient features of the guidelines include the following:

The Commission has revised the norms of number of persons accompanying the candidate and number of vehicles at the time of nomination. It has also created optional facility to fill the nomination form and the affidavit online and submission of the same, after taking print, before the RO concerned. For the first time, the candidates will have the option to deposit security amount for contesting the elections online. Keeping the containment guidelines in view, the Commission has limited the number of persons including candidate for door to door campaign to five. Public meeting and road shows shall be permissible with suitable instructions subject to containment instructions issued by the MHA/State. Face Mask, Sanitizer, Thermal scanners, gloves, face shield and PPE kits shall be used during the electoral process ensuring social distancing norms. Hand gloves shall be provided to all the electors for signing on the voter register and pressing button of EVM for voting.

The Chief Electoral Officers of concerned States/UTs, shall make comprehensive State/District & AC election plans regarding arrangement and preventive measures following these guidelines taking local conditions into account. These plans will be prepared in consultation with Nodal Officer for COVID-19 in their respective States/UTs.

Guidelines are available at https://eci.gov.in/files/file/12167-guidelines-for-conduct-of-general-electionbye-election-during-covid-19/


Election Commission

[Press Release dt. 21-08-2020]

Op EdsOP. ED.

Introduction

Eradication of political corruption is one of our long sought-after aspirations as a country to achieve an ideal democratic structure. However, in practical terms, these issues are far from being eliminated. Through media reporting, actions that count as an unethical or corrupt practice can also be seen very frequently. One of them is canvassing based on religion. While living in India we proudly adorn the title of being the largest democracy in the world and we also have the privilege of having the greatest democratic elections in human history. Elections in India are known as the Grand Festival of Democracy. However, in a country where elections are so important, there are certain things which make politics in India a dirty game, and Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951[1] (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’) is enacted to put a hold on one of the many ill practices.

Article 19(1)[2] defines the much-revered freedom of speech and expression. As mandated by the Constitution, freedom of speech and expression is a natural right which means that citizens acquire this right by birth. All the citizens hold the freedom of speech and expression but, it does not act as an unconditional licence. Therefore, certain reasonable restrictions are placed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. Section 123(3) of the Act prohibits canvassing by an electoral candidate to woo voters in the name of race, caste, religion, community and language. It also prohibits usage of religious symbols or national symbols or flag for canvassing purposes. Usage of the aforesaid are considered to be corrupt practices. The electoral candidates cannot promise any public policy which they propose to implement on being successful. Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees the citizens of India, freedom of conscience and allows every citizen the right and freedom to profess, practice and propagate the religion of one’s choice subject to public order, health and morality.

The authors have attempted to compare Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and Section 123(3) of the Act and have studied whether Section 123(3) of the Act is violative of Article 19(1)(a) or not in the context of the demographical feature of India and in the backdrop of the voters of the constituencies.

The Role of Election Commission

The Election Commission of India is a constitutional body, deriving its source of powers and functions from Article 324 of the Constitution of India. Entry 72 of Union List – Schedule 7 provides for the source of power to Parliament to regulate and frame laws with respect to elections to Parliament, State Legislatures and the election of the President and the Vice- President of India.

The Election Commission of India (hereinafter referred to as ‘the ECI’), over the years has passed rigid orders barring candidates like Maneka Gandhi, Azam Khan, and Giriraj Singh from campaigning and canvassing for votes, on the grounds of making communal speeches, which were against Section 123(3) of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951. In all the cases, the ECI reasoned out that the aforesaid candidates acted in contravention to the Model Code of Conduct (‘MCC’) which comes into force after the declaration of election is announced by the ECI and fell squarely within the ambit of ‘corrupt practices’, by appealing in the name of caste or communal feelings to secure votes. MCC stipulates that no political party or candidate can secure votes based on caste and religion. In many constituencies, there are poor people who do not possess the knowledge about the voting rights and the requisite knowledge with respect to corrupt practices, etc.

Some candidates try to take advantage of such public ignorance and use religion as to appeal for votes. The candidates often make hollow promises that, ‘if’ they are voted to power, then they will roll-out every possible schemes and benefits for the people of one distinct religious sect.

The Election Commission endeavours to take all the necessary measures to ensure that free, fair and peaceful elections in the country. However, it has been observed in practice, that the guidelines issued by the Election Commission are not followed strictly, rather there is an attempt to flout the rules, which leads us to an inevitable conclusion, that there is a strong need for electoral reforms in the country. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution states that India is a democratic and a secular nation. The word “democratic” means that we have the right to choose our own representatives. A Government of the People, For the People and By the People. “Secular”, on the other hand, means that our country does not have an official State sponsored religion unlike many other countries of this world. For example, Pakistan is known by the official name – “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan” which clearly indicates that Pakistan has a State religion but, on the other hand India’s Constitution bars any State religion. The election being the most important and integral part of any democracy, should remain sacrosanct and therefore, it is again important to reiterate the fact that the candidates should not appeal for votes in the name of religion or any other class differentiation; it defeats the ethos of a healthy democracy.

Judicial Interpretations

The Indian judiciary has decided multiple cases on the aspect of “corrupt practices”. In S.R Bommai v. Union of India[3], the Supreme Court observed that secularism is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. A section of people sometimes describes such an attitude of neutrality towards religious belief as compassionate neutrality, although religious freedom is guaranteed to everyone in India, the faith, religion, and belief of a person are immune from the radar of the State. All are equal before the State and have the right to equal treatment. There is no place for religion in machinery and the working of the State.

If the Constitution mandates the State to remain neutral in perception and behaviour vis-à-vis religion, the same requirement applies to political parties and their electoral candidates as well. The Constitution does not recognise, nor, does it allow the mixing of religion and State power. Concerning Section 123(3) of the Act, the Supreme Court in  S.R. Bommai[4] judgment warranted broader interpretation of Section 123(3) of the Act, thereby rejecting the restrictive reading of the provision as limited to the candidate and her or his opponent(s). However, this was an obiter dicta made in the judgment and is a not a part of the ratio of the judgment, as the case of S.R. Bommai was not directly related to Section 123(3) of the Act, but at the same time, favoured and observed the need for a broader interpretation of Section 123(3) of the RP Act, 1951.

It is important to mention that the Supreme Court has already upheld the constitutional validity of Section 123(3) of the RP Act, 1951 way back in the 1950s in  Jamuna Prasad Mukhariya v. Lacchi Ram[5] on the touchstone of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

In  Manohar Joshi v. Nitin Bhaurao Patil  [6] the Supreme Court rather opined the opposite. The case came up during the Maharashtra State Assembly elections following the ghastly and the much-detested Mumbai riots of 1992-93, where Manohar Joshi, a prominent face of a political party promised to declare Maharashtra as the first Hindu Rashtra in India, if elected to power. The Supreme Court observed that Hindutva is a “way of life and state of mind”, thus there was no problem with it being invoked during the election. The Supreme Court decided this case in favour of Manohar Joshi by resorting to a debatable reasoning that such an exhortation did not amount to “corrupt practice” and though “despicable”, it can at best be described as a “hope” and “not appeal for votes on the ground of his religion.” This judgment was widely criticised by noted jurists in India and abroad.[7] However, such a practice is in violation of Article 25, as it places reasonable restrictions and the State has the liberty to make any law that restricts such economic, financial, political exhortation or activities which may be associated with religious practices.

Section 123(3) of the RP Act, 1951, strictly prohibits any appeal of votes in the name of religion, along with other caveats. The reason being that, India is a secular nation and it has no official religion, however, if we turn a blind eye to these electoral campaigns which are squarely a part of “corrupt practices” especially wooing voters in the name of religion, shall be against the ethos of democracy and secularism which is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

If we try to analyse the verdict of Manohar Joshi[8], from the perspective of a common man belonging to a particular religious sect, such a decision would instil fear in the minds of those people, as it runs counter to the constitutional morality and ethos imbibed by the framers of the Constitution.

In  Kanti Prasad Jayshanker Yagnik v. Purshottamdas Ranchhoddas Patel[9], the Supreme Court stated by a majority of 2:1, that the appeal of a political leader to the mass with respect to the fact that voting for a party will be against the religion does not amount to corrupt practice. The Supreme Court observed that, vide Section 123(3) of the RP Act, the candidate or his or her agent should not appeal to the voters for voting or refrain from voting for any person on the basis of their religion, that is, the candidate’s religion which means, that they should vote candidate on the basis of qualities and not on the religious grounds.

In  Dr. Ramesh Yashwant Prabhoo v. Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte and Bal Thackarey v. Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte [10] an election campaigning speech was made on the grounds of religion and a particular religious sect was maligned. The Court agreed with the High Court, that the speeches were within the ambit of corrupt practices of wooing of voters in the name of religion as covered under Section 123(3) of the RP Act, 1951.

In  Abhiram Singh v. C.D. Commachen [11], a seven-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that, calling for votes in elections based on religion, caste, race, community or language, including that of the electorate, would constitute a ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123(3) of the RP Act, 1951 and  would call for the candidate to be disqualified. The Supreme Court opined that, “Election is a secular exercise and hence a process must be followed.” The relationship between man and God is an individual decision and this should be kept in mind,” ruled the Supreme Court in a 4:3 majority judgment.

The seven-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that an appeal in the name of religion, race, caste, community or language is inadmissible under the Representation of the People’s Act, 1951 and would constitute a corrupt practice adequate to nullify the election in which such an appeal was made regardless as to whether the appeal was in the name of the nominee’s religion. It is not an appeal to discuss matters relating to religion, caste, race, community or language which are of concern to voters on those grounds. The issues of constitutional importance include caste, race, religion and language.  The Constitution deals with them and includes provisions based on those features for the improvement of disabilities and discrimination. These are issues of concern to the electorate, especially where large segments of the population have been deprived of basic human rights due to caste and race-based prejudice and discrimination. The majority view was that, a secular State cannot identify itself with any religion or religious domination. This necessarily means that religion cannot play any role in the governance of a country that must be secular in nature at all times. The object of the RP Act, 1951 is to achieve the purity in elections and to ensure that the elections are free and fair, which means that caste, religion, language and community must be kept out of the electoral process.

The dissenting view (minority), held that, “to hold that a person seeking to contest an election is prohibited from speaking of the legitimate concerns of citizens that the injustices they face on the basis of the characteristics of origin of religion, race, caste, community or language would be remedied is to reduce democracy to abstraction,” which means that if there is a real problem that is related to religion, democracy would be reduced to abstraction.

Conclusion

In secular politics, correct behavior or propriety requires that an appeal for votes should not be made based on the religion of the candidate, which in itself is not an index of the suitability of the candidate for membership of the House.

Article 19(2) allows for the imposition of reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by Article 19(1)(a), which means that Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People’s Act, 1951 falls within the scope and ambit of “reasonable restrictions” and Section 123(3) is not an anti-thesis to Article 19(1) (a) as observed by the  Supreme Court in the judgment of Lacchi Ram in 1955[12] and also in the judgment of Bal Thackarey[13].

It can be safely concluded, that even if it is assumed that the Section 123(3) is a fetter only to be saved as a condition under which the candidate has the statutory right to contest the election, however, the fact that the system of separate electorates had been rejected by the framers of the Constitution and that secularism has been recognised to be a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, are relevant considerations to consider the fetter imposed by Section 123(3) of the RP Act, 1951, as a reasonable restriction on freedom of speech and expression, to maintain the code of conduct, required by morality and the propriety of social norms and to ensure free and fair elections which is also a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

However, in our opinion, an electoral speech cannot, by itself, fall within the scope of sub-section (3) of Section 123, unless it can be interpreted as an appeal to vote for a candidate on the premise that, the candidate belongs to a particular religious community and that he is trying to woo voters based on religion and announcing packages as a part of his speech, or to abstain from voting for the candidate based on his religion. The mere reference to any religion in an election speech does not come within the definition of sub-section (3) and/or subsection (3-A) of Section 123, as a reference may be made to any religion in the context of secularism or to any political party to discriminate against any religious group or, more generally, for the conservation of Indian culture. In short, the mere use of the word ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduism’ or the reference in an election speech to any other religion does not bring it within the scope of Section 123(3) and/or sub-section (3-A) to Section 123, unless the additional elements indicated in the provision, are also present in that speech. It is also essential to see the meaning and significance of the speech, and how it is likely to be perceived by the audience to whom the speech has been addressed.

Therefore, it is a task for the Election Commission to ensure that a strict vigil is kept and also it is also required that the election petitions are decided in a time-bound manner, as there are examples of election petitions getting decided after a period of four to five years, which allows a returned candidate to get away with a perpetration and the concept of free and fair elections are defeated.


*Advocate-On-Record, Supreme Court of India and Senior Associate, L&L Partners, New Delhi

**3rd Year Law Student, MAIMS, GGIPSU, New Delhi

[1] Representation of the People Act, 1951

[2] Article 19 of the Constitution

[3] (1994) 3 SCC 1  

[4] Ibid.

[5](1955) 1 SCR 608

[6] (1996) 1 SCC 169  

[7] https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/endorsing-hindutva/200472

[8] (1996) 1 SCC 169

[9] (1969) 1 SCC 455

[10] (1996) SCC  130

[11] (2017) 2 SCC 629

[12](1955) 1 SCR 608

[13] (1996) SCC 130


Image Credits: Ecuador Times

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court, Amravati: A Division Bench of J.K. Maheshwari, CJ and B. Krishna Mohan, J., addressed a Public Interest Litigation wherein a direction was sought to declare the proclamation, attempt or conduct of Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission in not conducting any election/poll for any post where there is only a single candidate in the fray for such post in any constituency, during the ensuing elections to be held for the members of local governing bodies in lieu of notifications and thereby depriving the electors’ of their right to vote in the form of NOTA against such single candidate.

Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 2006

A Public Interest Litigation was filed referring to the amendment introduced in 2018 to the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 2006.

In the above-stated Rules, insertion was Rule 35-A was done after Rule 35, which was as follows:

(1)“Notwithstanding anything contained in these Rules, in the Postal Ballot Papers and in the Ballot papers used for conduct of poll at polling stations with Ballot Boxes or Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), provision shall be made for ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option for the benefit of those electors who may wish to exercise their option of not voting to any of the candidates in the fray. The last panel of the ballot paper below the last candidate shall be earmarked for ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option.

(2) The State Election Commission may give such directions, as may be necessary, for effective implementation of ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option.”

What do the stated Rules say?

In case of  Postal Ballot Papers used for conduct of poll at polling stations with Ballot Boxes or Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) provision is required to be made.

When can NOTA be exercised?

NOTA applies in case where there is contest of election and as per the language set up in Rule 35-A of the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 2006, when there is an election through Ballot Boxes or EVM’s only then the said option can be exercised.

Hence, Court in view of the fact that, in cases where candidates have been declared uncontested, NOTA cannot be applied, dismissed the present petition. [A.V. Badra Naga Seshayya v. State of A.P., 2020 SCC OnLine AP 509 , decided on 20-07-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

At present, the country, as the rest of the world, is grappling with COVID-19 pandemic. It is evident that Government along with other agencies is engaged in the mammoth task of controlling the spread of this pandemic and taking various measures to manage and minimize its impact on public health and the national economy. The numerous steps being taken by the Government and Civil Society organisations  require vast resources for which contribution from all sources, including reducing the burden of salaries on the exchequer, might be helpful.

In view of the foregoing, Commission has decided to contribute in the form of voluntary reduction of thirty per cent in the basic salary paid by the Election Commission of India to Chief Election Commissioner Sh Sunil Arora and Election Commissioners Sh Ashok Lavasa and Sh Sushil Chandra for a period of one year commencing 1st April, 2020.


Election Commission

[Press Release dt. 13-04-2020]

[Source: PIB]

Hot Off The PressNews

Commission to implement the directions of Supreme Court concerning criminal antecedents of candidates by reiterating its existing instructions with suitable modifications

Election Commission has consistently espoused rigorous and loftiest normative standards in public life.

Supreme Court on 13-02-2020 in Contempt Pet. (C) No. 2192 of 2018 of W.P. (C) No. 536 of 2011 invoking Article 129 and Article 142 of the Constitution of India directed as under:

“1) It shall be mandatory for political parties [at the Central and State election level] to upload on their website detailed information regarding individuals with pending criminal cases (including the nature of the offences, and relevant particulars such as whether charges have been framed, the concerned Court, the case number etc.) who have been selected as candidates, along with the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.

 2) The reasons as to selection shall be with reference to the qualifications, achievements and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere “winnability” at the polls.

 3) This information shall also be published in: (a) One local vernacular newspaper and one national newspaper; (b) On the official social media platforms of the political party, including Facebook & Twitter.

 4) These details shall be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate or not less than two weeks before the first date for filing of nominations, whichever is earlier.

 5) The political party concerned shall then submit a report of compliance with these directions with the Election Commission within 72 hours of the selection of the said candidate.

 6) If a political party fails to submit such compliance report with the Election Commission, the Election Commission shall bring such non-compliance by the political party concerned to the notice of the Supreme Court as being in contempt of this Court’s orders/directions.”

Election Commission whole-heartedly welcomes this landmark order, which is bound to go a long way in setting new moral yardsticks for overall betterment of electoral democracy. Earlier, Commission on 10 October 2018 issued detailed instructions and guidelines along with amended form of affidavit for ensuring publicity of criminal antecedents by the candidates and the concerned political parties for the information of voters. This is being implemented in all the elections since November, 2018.  Now, Commission proposes to reiterate these instructions with suitable modifications in order to implement the directions of Hon’ble Supreme Court in letter as well as in spirit.

Also Read:


Election Commission

[Press Release dt. 14-02-2020]

[Source: PIB]

Hot Off The PressNews

Registration of political parties is governed by the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. An association seeking registration under the said Section has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days following the date of its formation, as per the guidelines prescribed by the Commission in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Constitution of India and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

In order to enable applicants to track the status of the application, the Commission has launched a “Political Parties Registration Tracking Management System (PPRTMS)”.

The salient feature in the PPRTMS is that the applicant, who is applying for party registration from 1-01-2020 will be able to track the progress of his/her application and will get the status update through SMS and e-mail.  The status can be tracked through the Commission’s portal at the link https://pprtms.eci.gov.in/. The Commission in the month of December, 2019,  has amended the guidelines and issued a Press Note dated 02.12.2019 regarding registration of political party for the information of the general public.  The new guidelines have been put to effect from 01-01-2020.


Election Commission

[Press Release dt. 01-01-2020]

[Source: PIB]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A writ petition was contemplated by Ramesh Ranganathan, CJ and Alok Kumar Verma, J. where the petitioner sought a writ of mandamus to command the respondents to consider the petitioner’s grievances and to consider linking the Voter ID Card of every valid adult voter with his Aadhaar Card, further it was sought that Voter ID card to be treated as valid document for casting vote in every election and to have a common list for every election either for Parliament, Assembly or for Local Bodies and Panchayats.

It was addressed in the Court that Article 243C in Part IX of the Constitution of India, related to the composition of Panchayats and under Clause (1), and the State Legislature makes provision for the composition of Panchayats. Article 243 C(2) stipulated that all seats in Panchayat shall be filled by persons chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the Panchayat area and, for this purpose, each Panchayat area shall be divided into territorial constituencies in such manner that the ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it shall, so far as practicable, be the same throughout the Panchayat area.

Shobhit Saharia, learned counsel for the Election Commission of India, contended that no relief was sought against the Election Commission of India, the petitioner had, in effect, sought the electoral roll, prepared by the Election Commission of India under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, to form the basis for preparation of the electoral rolls for Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies in the State of Uttarakhand. It was unnecessary to dwell on this aspect any further since the preparation of an electoral roll was prescribed in the State of Uttarakhand by law made by the State Legislature called the “Uttarakhand Panchayati Raj Act, 2016

It was further highlighted that provisions, similar to Article 243K in Part IX of the Constitution of India, were also prescribed for Urban Local Bodies under Article 243 ZA in Part IXA of the Constitution of India. In terms of the provisions of the Panchayati Raj Act, 2016, a separate electoral roll was required to be prepared for Panchayats in the State. The mode and manner in which these electoral rolls were to be prepared were also stipulated.

The Court noted that it was up to the State Legislature to prescribe by law, that the electoral rolls prepared for Parliamentary and Legislative Assemble Elections should be the basis of for elections to Panchayat Raj Institution and Urban Local Bodies. Court further observed that it was out of their purview to decide and direct such issues and was totally the wisdom of the legislature. Court appreciated the intentions of the petitioner that he wanted to ensure that all those who had the right to vote were permitted to exercise the franchise and arbitrary deletion of their names from the electoral rolls was avoided.

It was held that the power of superintendence conferred on Election Commission was similar to the power conferred on the State Legislature. The Court observed the scope of Article 324 of the Constitution of India, in A.C Jose v. Sivan Pillai, (1984) 2 SCC 656,  where it was held that, “when there is no Parliamentary Legislation, or Rule made under the said legislation, the Commission is free to pass any orders in respect of the conduct of elections; and where the Act or the Rules are silent, the Commission has plenary powers, under Article 324 of the Constitution of India, to give any direction in respect of the conduct of elections.”

Hence the petition was dismissed as the representation was already made before the Election Commission.[Ravindra Jugran v. State Election Commission, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 913, decided on 12-09-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Sanjiv Khanna and Deepak Gupta, JJ has has asked 21 opposition parties to file response over the Election Commission’s affidavit in a case where the Parties sought direction that 50 per cent EVM results should be matched and cross-checked with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPAT) before the declaration of results in the upcoming General Elections. The bench directed the 21 opposition parties (petitioners) to file a rejoinder to the affidavit of the poll panel before April 8.

On Friday, the Election Commission (EC) of India, in an affidavit, told the court that there is no need to increase VVPAT count to match it with EVM. It had said that the existing system is full-proof and more VVPAT  count means 6 days delay in the counting of votes in Lok Sabha election. The court had directed EC to file an affidavit on why physical verification of VVPATs should not be extended to more than one polling station per Assembly segment.

The court is hearing a plea filed by 21 opposition leaders led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, seeking a random count of VVPAT slips of at least 50 per cent EVMs in each Assembly constituency before the declaration of Lok Sabha election results. The petition has challenged the decision of the Commission to check VVPATs of only one randomly selected booth of a constituency. The petitioners have said that this will account only for 0.44 per cent of the votes polled.

(Source: ANI)

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Supreme Court: The Court has ssued a notice to the Election Commission regarding alleged non-implementation of the top court’s past order of publishing the criminal record of candidates in newspapers. The bench Rohinton Fali Nariman and Vineet Saran, JJ sought the Election Commission’s response within a week.

The contempt petition is filed by lawyer and BJP leader, Ashwini Upadhyay. Upadhyay, in his petition, claimed that the EC had allegedly failed to enforce the Court’s earlier order of September 25, 2018 that said that it is mandatory for candidates to publish in newspapers
about the pending criminal cases against them during their filing of nomination paper during the election.

Upadhyay, in his petition, claimed that the ECI had allegedly failed to ensure the disclosure of criminal antecedents and the Central government has not made a law to debar criminals from contesting the elections.

Seven phase elections in the country will begin on April 11 and conclude on May 19. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.

(Source: ANI)


Also read:

Candidates with criminal antecedents| Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to lay down disqualification for membership; Court cannot legislate: SC

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Supreme Court: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has told the bench of S A Bobde and S A Nazeer, JJ that it will hold by-elections on vacant assembly seats of Tiruparankundram, Ottapidaram and Aravakurichi in Tamil Nadu within a reasonable time. The Court was hearing a plea filed by the DMK seeking a direction to the poll panel for holding the by-elections on these three vacant assembly seats.

The bench, while taking on record the submissions of the ECI’s counsel, disposed of the petition and observed that the court cannot determine the timing of elections and it was for the poll panel to decide.

The counsel appearing for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had earlier told the apex court that there are 21 vacant assembly seats in Tamil Nadu but the poll panel has notified by-polls for only 18 seats. He had said that by-polls on 18 vacant seats are scheduled to be held on April 18 along with the Lok Sabha polls in the state. It was argued that ECI should be asked to hold the by-elections on the remaining three assembly seats along with the general elections.

On March 15, the Court had asked the ECI to respond to the DMK’s plea seeking by-polls for Tiruparankundram, Ottapidaram and Aravakurichi assembly constituencies. The poll panel had earlier told the court that the by-polls for three assembly seats were not announced as some election petitions were pending in the Madras High Court.

(Source: PTI)

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Supreme Court: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the plea of 21 opposition leaders, led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, seeking that VVPAT slips of at least 50 per cent of voting machines in each assembly constituency be checked randomly in the Lok Sabha elections. The leaders from six national and 15 regional parties, claiming to represent 70-75 per cent of the population, have also sought the setting aside of the Election Commission of India (EC) guideline on random verification of one assembly seat.

The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Dupta and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ said that notice be issued to the EC, and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) should depute an officer to assist the court in the matter.

The parties include the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Aam Aadmi Party, CPI (Marxist), CPI, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Loktantrik Janata Dal and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). The petition has sought quashing of the EC guideline which provides that random verification of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips shall be conducted in one polling stations in case of assembly election and in each assembly segment in case of Lok Sabha election. It also sought a further direction to the election commission for random verification of at least 50 per cent electronic voting machines (EVM) using the VVPAT per assembly segment/ assembly constituency.

The Court will next hear the matter on March 25, 2019.

(Source: PTI)

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The Election Commission of India has directed that all electors in all constituencies who have been issued Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) have to produce the Electors Photo Identity Card for their identification at the polling station before casting their votes. Those electors who are not able to produce the EPIC shall produce one of the following alternative photo identity documents for establishing their identity. The list of eleven documents is:

  1. Passport,
  2. Driving License,
  3. Service Identity Cards with photograph issued to employees by Central/State Govt./PSUs/Public Limited Companies,
  4. Passbooks with photograph issued by Bank/Post Office,
  5. PAN Card,
  6. Smart Card issued by RGI under NPR,
  7. MNREGA Job Card,
  8. Health Insurance Smart Card issued under the scheme of Ministry of Labour,
  9. Pension document with photograph,
  10. Official identity cards issued to MPs/MLAs/MLCs, and
  11. Aadhaar Card.

Overseas electors shall have to produce their original passport only for identification.

To assist the Voters, the Commission has further directed its officers that in the case of EPIC, minor discrepancies in the entries therein should be ignored provided the identity of the elector can be established by the EPIC. If an elector produces an EPIC which has been issued by the Electoral Registration Officer of another Assembly Constituency, such card shall also be accepted for identification, provided the name of that elector finds place in the electoral roll pertaining to the polling station where the elector has turned up for voting.  If it is not possible to establish the identity of the elector on account of mismatch of photograph, etc. the elector shall have to produce one of the above mentioned alternative photo documents.

On earlier occasions, the Commission had allowed Photo Voter Slip as a document for identification. However, there have been representations against its use as a stand-alone identification document on the grounds of misuse as these are printed after the finalisation of the roll and distributed just close to the poll through Booth Level Officers. The design of Photo Voter Slip does not incorporate any security feature. In fact, Photo Voter Slip was started as an alternative document as the coverage of EPIC was not complete in earlier years. Currently more than 99 per cent electors possess EPIC, and more than 99 per cent adults have been issued Aadhar Cards.

Taking all these facts in view, Commission has now decided that Photo Voter Slip shall henceforth not be accepted as a stand-alone identification document for voting.  However, Photo Voter Slip will continue to be prepared and issued to electors as part of the awareness building exercise.  In order to make it clear to the electors that Photo Voter Slips shall not be accepted as a stand-alone identification document for voting, the words `THIS SLIP WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF IDENTIFICATION IN POLLING STATION. YOU ARE REQUIRED TO CARRY EPIC OR ONE OF THE 11 ALTERNATIVE DOCUMENTS SPECIFIED BY THE COMMISSION FOR VOTING” shall be printed on the Photo Voter Slip in bold letters.

All Returning Officers and all Presiding Officers are being informed of these instructions. A copy of the instructions translated in the vernacular language will be supplied to each of the Presiding Officers. The Order shall be got published in the State, Gazette, immediately and publicised through print/electronic media for information of the general public and electors immediately and at very regular intervals till the date of polling.

[Source: PIB]

Election Commission

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Supreme Court: The bench of Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha, JJ asked the Central Government to constitute Special Courts to deal with cases involving MPs and MLAs and speedy disposal of these matters after the Election Commission of India recommended life ban on politicians convicted in criminal cases. The bench asked Centre to apprise it with the details of the criminal cases lodges against politicians from 2014 till date.

The Court asked Centre to place before it details regarding 1,581 cases involving MPs and MLAs, as declared by politicians at the time of filing their nominations during the 2014 general elections and that how many of these 1,581 cases have been disposed of within one year and how many have ended either in conviction or acquittal of the accused.

Centre told the bench that decriminalisation of politics has to be done and it was not averse to the setting up of special courts to deal with cases involving politicians and that the recommendations of the Election Commission of India and the Law Commission favouring life-time disqualification of politicians convicted in criminal cases was under the active consideration of the government.
The Court, hence, asked Centre to place before it the scheme for setting up of such special courts and also indicate the amount of funds that could be earmarked for the purpose. The matter has been listed on December 13, 2017 and Centre has to do the needful within 6 weeks.
Source: ET

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the controversy relating to right to the symbol allocated by the Election Commission of India to the AIADMK, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr DY Chandrachud, JJ asked the Election Commission of India to commence the hearing and dispose of the proceedings expeditiously, preferably by 10th November, 2017.

TTV Dinakaran, the petitioner, had claimed that he is authorised to have the symbol and the contesting respondents claim to the contrary. Senior counsel Ashok Desai, appearing for the petitioner had argued that a number of affidavits have been filed by the respondents and therefore, time is required to advert to the same and further it is necessary to refute the same. On the contrary, Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the respondents had argued that the affidavits have been filed on the basis of the directions issued by the Election Commission of India.

Refusing to go into the veracity of the affidavits, thee Court said that the Election Commission has the authority under the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 and Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 to decide who is entitled to retain the symbol in case of dispute. [TTV Dinakaran v. B. Ramkumar Adityan, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1199, order dated 06.10.2017]