Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court:  In a major judgment today, a bench of RF Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has directed all political parties to upload on their website details of pending criminal cases against candidates contesting polls, noting that there has been an alarming increase in criminalisation of politics.

The Court said political parties will also have to upload reasons for selecting candidates with pending criminal cases on their website.

The Court was hearing the contempt petition which brought the Court’s attention to a disregard of the directions of a Constitution Bench of this Court in Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India, (2019) 3 SCC 224 which too cognisance of the increasing criminalisation of politics in India and the lack of information about such criminalisation amongst the citizenry and issued various directions in that regard.

It was brought to the Court’s notice that there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of criminals in politics. In 2004, 24% of the Members of Parliament had criminal cases pending against them; in 2009, that went up to 30%; in 2014 to 34%; and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them. The Court, hence, issued the following directions:

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:

    • One local vernacular newspaper and one national newspaper;
    • 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 4 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.

[Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 178, decided on 1302.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: A Bench of G.R. Swaminathan and T. Krishnavalli, JJ. refused to entertain a writ petition that challenged the decision of the Returning Officer whereby the petitioner’s nomination filed for contesting by-election was rejected.

The petitioner was a practicing lawyer wanting to contest the by-election for Ottapidaram reserved constituency to be held on 19-5-2019. His nomination was rejected on the ground that he failed to enclose the extract of electoral roll the original Community Certificate before official scrutiny time.

G. Thalaimutharasu, Advocate for the petitioner seriously faulted the conduct of the Returning Officer in hastily rejecting his nomination. Per contra, J. Padmavathi, Special Government Pleader supported the impugned decision.

The High Court found itself unable to agree with the arguments of the petitioner. Relying on the Supreme Court decisions in N.P. Ponnuswami v. Returning Officer, AIR 1952 SC 64Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief Election Commissioner, (1978) 1 SCC 405; and Manda Jaganath v. K.S. Rathnam, (2004) 7 SCC 492, the High Court noted: “Article 329 of the Constitution contains a blanket bar against entertaining such writ petitions.” Referring to Section 100 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, it was held that if the petitioner’s nomination was improperly rejected, his remedy is to file an election petition before the Election Tribunal, which in this case will be the High Court. It was held further: “The petitioner will have to necessarily wait for the conclusion of the election process and thereafter, he can challenge the same.” Therefore, the writ petition was dismissed as not maintainable. [P. Singaravel v. Chief Electoral Officer, WP (MD) No. 11505 of 2019, Order dated 02-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Division Bench of Amreshwar Pratap Sahi, CJ and Anjana Mishra, J. dismissed an appeal challenging election of a village mukhiya.

Appellant herein had filed an election petition assailing the election of Respondent 3 as mukhiya of a village on the ground of non-disclosure of his assets and liabilities as per the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act, 2006. This petition was dismissed and the writ petition challenging Election Commission’s order was also dismissed. Hence, the present appeal.

Counsel for the appellant contended that nomination paper of Respondent 3 was improperly accepted as he had not filled up details of his assets and liabilities. An affidavit was filed later declaring such assets and liabilities to supplement respondent’s nomination papers but the same was a manipulated document inasmuch as it had been manually stamped while other documents were stamped through a franking machine.

Learned counsel for the respondent objected to the maintainability of election petition for not being verified in accordance with Rule 108 of the Bihar Panchayat Raj Rules, 2006. Further, the sole ground raised in the petition was non-disclosure of assets; no challenge was raised in relation to the affidavit filed by the respondent. The subject affidavit was accepted with the nomination papers before the Assistant Returning Officer who scrutinized the same and thereafter declared Respondent 3’s nomination valid. The nomination could not have been declared to be valid in the absence of requisite declaration and therefore there was a valid presumption under the law regarding the existence of this fact.

The Court observed that the casual manner in which petition had been verified was a serious defect. Argument regarding the non-existence of affidavit could not have been appreciated without a petition being verified on the basis of records available. Further, once the defense of supplemental affidavit had been raised, then the burden lay on the election petitioner to dislodge the same by summoning the Assistant Returning Officer.  It was held that the acceptance of affidavit by the Returning Officer without any objection from the appellant or election petitioner provided a clear presumption of fact regarding the validity of nomination of Respondent 3. Lastly, since the issue regarding stamping of an affidavit was not pleaded or advanced either before the learned Single Judge or the Election Tribunal, therefore it could not be raised at this juncture.

In view of the above, the appeal was dismissed for being bereft of merits.[Ram Roop Devi v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 44, Order dated 11-01-2019]