Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: Devan Ramachandran, J. allowed the writ petition to direct the Returning Officer (RO) to act in terms of the Circular issued by the State Police Chief, Kerala.

The petitioner filed the following writ petition because they apprehended disturbances in law and order situation during polling. In order to curb cases of large scale bogus voting, the petitioner pleaded the Court to direct the RO to seek police reinforcement and also videography the entire process, so that the process of election can be conducted in a fair and transparent manner. The petitioner also pleaded that the Court must direct the RO to prevent bogus voting by ensuring that the ballot paper is issued to the voters only on production of the identity cards and such other documents of proof as are mentioned in Rule 35(A)(6)(n)(ix) of the Kerala Cooperative Societies Rules (the KCS Rules).

The respondents contended that it was not necessary for the petitioner to have approached the Court because the RO would have followed the mandate as provided under the Circular. According to them, if there were to be any disturbances during voting, all necessary police reinforcements will be called for. If the petitioner is willing to pay, the Returning Officer will make arrangements for videography of the entire voting process, without in any manner compromising its secrecy. On the apprehension of the petitioner regarding bogus voting, the respondents submitted that all necessary steps will be taken by the RO. The petitioner even agreed to the terms set forth by the respondents.

The High Court too instructed the RO to comply with the Circular implicitly and to ensure that there are no cases of bogus voting by following the mandatory requirements under the KCS Act and Rules, including by insisting on the relevant identity proof. The RO was also asked to make immediate arrangements for videography of the entire electoral process, without compromising its secrecy in any manner. Voting must be completed in a free and fair manner by the said officer without any fault. Further the RO was asked to ensure that ballot papers are issued only as per Rule 35(A)(6)(n)(ix) of the KCS Rules and on the strength of the identity cards and other documents mentioned therein so that the allegation of bogus voting can be fully, if not substantially, allayed.[Vakathanam Service Co-Operative Bank v.  Inspector of Police, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 2436, decided on 29-07-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

“Any dispute in regard to the validity of the election has to be espoused by adopting a remedy which is known to law, namely through an election petition”

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar and Dr DY Chandrachud, JJ., addressing the challenge to the Calcutta High Court’s decision on issuing directions for the acceptance of nominations in the electronic form by the West Bengal State Election Commission, decided to set aside the impugned judgment and order of the High Court.

The present appeal consisted of the facts that the candidate who wished to contest the panchayat elections were not being allowed to collect and submit their nomination forms as a result of the violent actions of the supporters of the ruling party in the State. The relief that the respondents were pressing upon was that the State Election Commission must accept nominations already filed, in the electronic form.

The Supreme Court on observing the facts and contentions of the parties and on analyzing the whole scenario of circumstances in the present matter stated that the provision contained in the Panchayat Elections Act 1973 and Rules constitute a complete code in regard to the conduct of the election, including the matter of filing nominations. Neither the Panchayat Elections Act nor the Rules contemplate the filing of nominations in the electronic form and for any such reform, a legislative amendment has to be carried out.

Further, in the matter concerning the uncontested seats in the said elections, the Bench stated that the intervention of this Court is sought on the basis that free and fair elections are a part of the basic feature of the Constitution. While the Court was of the view that the validity of the elections must be tested in election petitions under Section 79(1) of the Act, however, the seriousness of the allegations and proceedings placed before the Court would necessitate exercising the power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. Accordingly, the Court extended a period of 30 days for filing nominations in regard to the uncontested seats. For the reasons mentioned hereinabove, the judgment and order of the Calcutta High Court impugned in the appeal was set aside. The appeal was disposed of in the terms above. [W.B. State Election Commission v. Communist Party of India (Marxist), 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1137, decided on 24-08-2018]