Case BriefsDistrict Court

   

City Sessions Court, Mumbai: In a bail application filed by Pravin Raut (A3) and Sanjay Raut (A5) against arrest made by Directorate of Enforcement (ED) due to allegations relating to selling free sale component, generating proceeds of crime and laundering of about Rs. 95 Cr./ Rs. 100 Cr./ Rs. 112 Cr., M.G. Deshpande, J., granted bail and held that both accused are arrested illegally and are entitled to parity in view of disparity made by the ED in not arresting the main accused persons Rakesh (A1), Sarang (A2), their HDIL, MHADA and Government Officials/staff responsible for misdeeds of Rakesh and Sarang (A1 and A2) at the relevant time in 2006-2018.

Pravin Raut prayed for grant of bail contending his innocence and false implication whereas ED strongly opposed the application alleging his active involvement in generation, placement, layering and integration of proceeds of crime (POC), amounting to a serious offence of money laundering. Sanjay Raut prayed for grant of bail on the same ground and ED opposed the application alleging that Sanjay Raut is involved in the crime right from the beginning in the process of generation, placement, layering and integration of the proceeds of crime and thus committed serious offence of Money Laundering under Sec. 3 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).

On perusal of documents placed before the Court, it was noted that Pravin Raut was arrested based on charges of civil nature and Sanjay Raut was arrested for no credible reasons to be seen. This truth is glaring. The Court is under a legal obligation and duty to find out the truth even at the stage of bail. The Supreme Court time and again laid down, “Truth is the guiding star. Criminal trial is voyage of discovery of truth. The truth alone triumphs and every endeavour must be made by the Court to discover the truth and make justice.”

The Court further noted that simply labeling pure civil disputes with “money laundering” or “an Economic Offence” itself cannot automatically acquire such status and ultimately drag an innocent person in a miserable situation in the guise of arrest under Section 19 and stringent twin conditions of Section 45(1)(i)(ii) of PML Act, 2002. The Court must do what is right irrespective of who is before it.

The Court remarked that in the given set of facts, if MHADA, who is party to every stage and every litigation, had reached up to the High Court, yet lodged FIR for the alleged transaction allegedly taken place during 2006 to 2013. Thus, the conduct of MHADA right from beginning till date is suspicious and even ED admitted the same in their complaints, yet ED has not made any MHADA staff accused.

The Court further remarked that Rakesh and Sarang (A1 and A2) are allegedly the main accused persons as admitted by affidavit of Sarang Wadhawan, and still were not arrested by the ED and were left unscathed. All this clearly indicates disparity, pick and choose attitude of the ED.

The Court opined that many statements of witnesses recorded by ED clearly refer the prominent role of Wadhawans (A1 and A2) and their HDIL, but they were not arrested and Pravin Raut (A3) and Sanjay Raut (A5) who have absolutely no concern in generating POC or laundering money as well as indulging the criminal activities relating to the scheduled offence, were arrested for subsequent transactions, they have made from their own money.

The Court observed that extreme and exceptional power of effecting arrest which ought to have been used very sparingly, has been used by the ED Investigating Officers under Section 19 of PMLA, is abinitio Illegal and held that the question of attracting rigors of stringent twin conditions under Section 45(1)(i)(ii) of PML Act, 2002 do not arise and both accused cannot be detained in judicial custody.

[Pravin Madhukar Raut v. Directorate of Enforcement, PMLA Special Case No. 356 of 2022, decided on 09-11-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Aabad Ponda, Ld. Sr. Counsel @ Mr. Nitesh Jain, Mr. Hridhay Khurana, Ld. Advs. i/b Trilegal for the Applicant(A3);

Mr. Hiten Venegavkar @ Mrs. Kavita Patil, Ld. Spl. P. Ps.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this.

Allahabad High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: Dinesh Kumar Singh, J. rejected the bail application of former UP MLA Mukhtar Ansari who was arrested under Sections 419, 420, 467, 468, 471, 120-B, 177 and 506 Penal Code, 1860 and Section 7 of Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932. Bail application of the accused-applicant was rejected by the Special Judge (MP/MLA)/Additional District Judge earlier on 13-12-2021.

FIR against accused-applicant revealed that an ambulance was registered in the Road Transport Office, Barabanki on 21-12-2013 in the name of Dr. Alka Rai in lieu of forged documents. During the course of investigation name of the accused-applicant figured, and it was found that the real beneficiary and user of the said vehicle was the present accused-applicant and he got the said vehicle purchased in the name of Dr. Alka Rai by pressurizing her and the payment was allegedly made by him.

State submitted that the accused-applicant is a known Mafia, Don and Gangster. He has been elected five times for the Legislative Assembly of the Uttar Pradesh from Mau Constituency and three times while he was in jail. Criminal history of the accused-applicant was also submitted in detail. It was alleged that the aforesaid vehicle was recovered from Mohali, Punjab, which was being used by the accused-applicant and his henchmen for going to the court from jail. His henchmen would travel in the said ambulance armed with sophisticated weapons to escort him.

The Court remarked that ‘It is irony and tragedy of the Indian republic and biggest scar on Indian democracy that criminals like the present accused-applicant are the law-makers.

It was noted that Dr. Alka Rai, later in her statement admitted that under pressure and fear of the present accused-applicant, she had signed on some papers brought by his men and her signatures were taken on the blank letter pad of the hospital along with seal etc. Statements of other co-accused corroborated the abovementioned allegations.

The Court reiterated the Supreme Court ruling in Harjit Singh v. Inderpreet Singh, 2021 SCC Online SC 633 wherein the Court had cancelled the bail granted to the accused by the High Court considering the criminal antecedents of the accused. Further the Court relied on Brijmani Devi v. Pappu Kumar, (2022) 4 SCC 497 where the Supreme Court held that while considering a bail application by the Court, the due consideration, inter alia, to be given to the criminal antecedents of the accused.

The Court rejected the bail application keeping in mind the long criminal history of the accused-applicant of most heinous offences and facts of the case. The Court did not find any ground to enlarge the accused-applicant on bail.

“The accused-applicant commands un-parallel fear in the minds and hearts of the people that no one dares to challenge him and his men and his politics. If the accused-applicant is enlarged on bail, the apprehension of the prosecution that he would tamper with the evidence and influence the witnesses, cannot be ruled out.”

[Mukhtar Ansari v. State of U.P., 2022 SCC OnLine All 491, decided on 19-07-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Sri Arun Sinha, counsel for the applicant and Sri V.K. Shahi, Additional Advocate General assisted by Sri Anurag Varma, A.G.A.


*Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Vacation Bench of Surya Kant and JB Pardiwala, JJ has given a go ahead to the Special Session of the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha to be convened at 11:00 on 30.0­6.­2022 for trust vote.

The order came when Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi mentioned the matter before the Court at 5pm on 29.06.2022 and the hearing concluded at 9pm. The writ petition sought for setting aside the Maharashtra Governor’s communication/directions dated 28­6­2022 to the Chief Minister of   Maharashtra as also the Secretary, Maharashtra Legislative Assembly to conduct the Trust Vote on 30.06.2022 and conclude it by 5pm.

The Supreme Court has “found no reason” to interfere with the aforementioned direction and has directed that the special session be conducted as per the Governor’s directions. As an aftermath of the order, Uddhav Thakrey has resigned as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra[1].

[Sunil Prabhu v. Governor of Maharashtra, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 776, order dated 29.06.2022]


For petitioners: Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sr.Adv., Mr. Devadatt Kamat, Sr. Adv., Mr. Javedur Rahman, AOR, Mr. Rajesh Inamdar, Adv., Mr. Shivendra Singh, Adv., Mr. Hemant Shah, Adv., Mr. Amit Bhandari, Adv., Mr. Sunny Jain, Adv., Mr. Nidhiram, Adv., Mr. Harsh Pandey, Adv., Mr. Revanta Solanki, Adv.

For Respondent(s): Mr. Tushar Mehta, SG, Mr. Satyapal Jain, ASG, Mr. Neeraj Kishan Kaul, Sr. Adv., Mr. Siddharth Bhatnagar, Sr. Adv., Mr. Rajat Nair, Adv., Mr. Kanu Agarwal, Adv., Mr. A.K. Sharma, AOR,  Mr. Siddharth Dharmadhikari, Adv., Mr. Abhikalp Pratap Singh, AOR, Ms. Gunjan Mangla, Adv., Ms. Aagam Kaur, Adv., Mr. Abhay Anturkar, Adv., Ms. Aarzoo Aneja, Adv., Mr. Dhruv Sharma, Adv., Ms. Ira Mahajan, Adv., Ms. Pracheta Kar, Adv., Ms. Aadya Yadav, Adv., Mr. Toshiv Goyal, Adv., Mr. Raghav Agrawal, Adv., Mr. Ramchandra Madan, Adv., Mr. Deepak Joshi, Adv., Mr. Maninder Singh, Sr. Adv., Mr. Mahesh Jethmalani, Sr. Adv., Mr. Chirag Shah, Adv., Mr. Utsav Trivedi, Adv., Mr. Abhinay, AOR, Mr. Himanshu Sacheva, Adv., Ms. Manini Roy, Adv., Mr. Pooran Chand Roy, Adv., Ms. Shivani Bhushan, Adv., Mr. Rahul Garg, Adv., Mr. Prabhas Bajaj, Adv., Mr. Pranav Saigal, Adv., Mr. Rahul Chitnis, Adv., Mr. Sachin Patil, AOR, Mr. Geo Joseph, Adv., Ms. Shewtal Shepal, Adv.


[1] The Tribune, June 29, 2022, https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/thackeray-govt-floor-test-live-updates-supreme-court-begins-hearing-on-shiv-senas-plea-challenging-governors-direction-to-govt-408027

Op EdsOP. ED.

In a democratic setup, the popular will of people prevails. The citizens of India get to choose their candidates, who in return prioritise the well-being of these people by trying to establish a welfare State. The right to vote as enshrined in the Indian Constitution is an incredible power which is saddled upon every citizen of the country, who is not less than 18 years of age while exercising this power. The responsibility which shadows this right is to choose a representative who will further the well-being of the society and the country at large. The conclusive goal of this universal adult franchise is to maintain transparency in elections and to make them free and fair.

India saw its first election in the year 1951, which was held to the Lok Sabha. At that time, the people of the country were in awe of the fact that they could choose their representatives and these representatives would form a government. The candidates at that time had to resort to door-to-door campaign to spread awareness about the right to vote as well as their candidature. Documentaries were played in cinema halls across the country to promote adult franchise. One of the insurmountable impediments faced at that time was the daunting rate of illiteracy in the country. Use of symbols by political parties was a quick fix to overcome this problem and it helped the citizens remember who they had to vote for. During those times, the criteria for people to select their representatives dominantly circled around the face value of candidates and the promises made by them.

Unlike those times, the citizens nowadays have become vigilant and are conscious about the developments around the world. But the question that arises at this juncture is — whether the citizens are conscious enough about the representatives they choose, who form the Government and run the country?

The expression “criminalisation in politics” comes into spotlight here. This could precisely be defined as participation of candidates in politics, who have criminal antecedents. These candidates can contest elections from different political parties and get elected to the post they are contesting for. The undue influence that these people with criminal antecedents exercise on the public and their fear amongst all as well as existence of casteism, has opened floodgates for them to enter into politics and enlarge their vote bank by resorting to malpractices as well as by using their influence which they have on a particular section/s of people. The political parties hanker on two major requirements: (1) a large enough vote bank and influence over the public for ensuring unprecedented support; and (2) infusing funds in the campaign to make sure the public can see party’s grandeur. Political parties are always on a lookout for such candidates who can aid the parties in fulfilling these requirements. These parties while campaigning for elections, try to portray a clean image of its candidates, regardless of the criminal cases pending against any or all of them. This evident growth in the menace caused by the infiltration by the candidates with criminal antecedents in Indian politics was and is a major concern.

At this very point the Indian judiciary stepped in to uphold the rights of the citizens of the country and also to safeguard the democratic setup. In a recent ruling in Brajesh Singh v. Sunil Arora[1] the Supreme Court of India went on to emphasise the need for maintaining purity in the political system of the country to uphold the democracy and ensure its proper functioning. The Bench comprising of R.F. Nariman and B.R. Gavai, JJ., while hearing a contempt petition in the aforesaid case, deliberated upon the need for a system of checks and balances, and the duty of legislature to bring about necessary amendments in law to prohibit the candidates with criminal antecedents from contesting elections. The Bench referred to a catena of decisions of the Supreme Court to demonstrate how the judiciary had stepped in on various occasions to pass directions and safeguard the democratic set-up of the country. It further delineated the scheme of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (Act of 1951)[2]. The Bench observed that the respondent political parties had flouted the previous directions passed by the Supreme Court while hearing the contempt petition in Rambabu Singh Thakur v. Sunil Arora[3], which in turn arose out of the case of Public Interest Foundation v. Union of India[4], wherein the Constitution Bench had passed certain directions for ensuring that a voter is fully aware about the particulars of the candidates, but the political parties had chosen to show disregard to those. While referring to the case of Union of India v. Assn. for Democratic Reforms[5], the Bench in Brajesh Singh[6] took assistance of the observations made therein which pertain to the requirement of furnishing of information by a candidate as to acquittals, discharge or conviction in relation to criminal offences in the past by way of affidavit so that a voter has the right to know full particulars of the candidate for whom he is going to vote, including whether the candidate has committed criminal offences in the past.

The Bench also adverted to the developments post the amendments which were carried out in the Act of 1951 as well as the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961[7]. The Court in Public Interest Foundation[8] while setting out Section 8[9] of the Act of 1951 and referring to the 244th Law Commission Report[10] titled “Electoral Disqualifications” of February 2014, issued directions contained in Para 116, which pertain to furnishing of complete information about the criminal antecedents of the candidates. The Court also took the efforts to suggest the Parliament to enact laws to ensure that entry of such candidates with serious criminal history are completely restricted from entering in the field of politics.

The Court in Brajesh Singh[11] expressed its anguish and dissatisfaction for the lack of initiative taken by the legislature to act upon the repetitive suggestions of the Court given through various decisions. Para 21 of the said judgment reads thus:

  1. The nation continues to wait, and is losing patience. Cleansing the polluted stream of politics is obviously not one of the immediate pressing concerns of the legislative branch of Government.

The Court also exhaustively contemplated about instances of false conviction of a candidate or registering a false case against a candidate due to political vendetta. The deliberation with regard to the interests of political parties, balanced with the interests of the voters ended up with the Court observing that, the political party would have the freedom of selecting the candidates of its choice, regardless of the fact that he has criminal antecedents, but what would be required in such a case is to give reasons in support of such selection, and the reasons could be dependent on various factors including qualifications, achievements and other merits but not on “mere winnability at the polls”. The Court made it clear that this was only to enable a voter to have all the necessary information, so that he can exercise his right to franchise in an effective manner, and that this in no way impinge upon the right of a political party to choose a candidate of its own choice.

Separation of powers

The Bench comprising of R.F. Nariman and B.R. Gavai, JJ. adverted to the doctrine of separation of powers, while explaining the inability of the judiciary to pass such directions, which were not supported by any statute or any provisions elsewhere. The concept of separation of powers is not as rigid in India as is under American or Australian Constitution but is needed to be adhered to for effective functioning of democracy.

Montesquieu finds that tyranny pervades when there is no separation of powers: There would be an end of everything, were the same man or same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals.[12]

Separation of powers is a barrier which is restraining the judiciary from going above and beyond by issuing strictures or directions which find no base in any of the existing laws in the country. This is a catch in the present scenario, as the Court has only been able to suggest the legislature to take steps which the judiciary cannot work upon and has been hopeful but ended- up expressing its anguish and helplessness due to the inaction of legislature in making laws to eradicate the criminalisation in politics. The Bench while referring to paras 24 and 25 in Public Interest Foundation[13], reiterated that the courts cannot legislate and that only legislature can enumerate the grounds for disqualification of a candidate whereas a court cannot add to such grounds.

The Bench in Brajesh Singh[14] in para 48 reiterated the position of law as has been fortified in Public Interest Foundation[15], that:

  1. … it would tantamount to adding a new ground for disqualification which is beyond the pale of the judicial arm of State. It observed that any attempt to the contrary would be a colourable exercise of judicial power for it is axiomatic that “what cannot be done directly ought not to be done indirectly” which is a well-accepted principle in the Indian judiciary.

Further, the relevancy of the following observations made by the Constitution Bench in Public Interest Foundation[16] is of a greater degree to understand the self-restraint practised by the Supreme Court in the backdrop of separation of powers:

  1. … Though criminalisation in politics is a bitter manifest truth, which is a termite to the citadel of democracy, be that as it may, the Court cannot make the law.
  2. Directions to the Election Commission, of the nature as sought in the case at hand, may in an idealist world seem to be, at a cursory glance, an antidote to the malignancy of criminalisation in politics but such directions, on a closer scrutiny, clearly reveal that it is not constitutionally permissible. The judicial arm of the State being laden with the duty of being the final arbiter of the Constitution and protector of constitutional ethos cannot usurp the power which it does not have.

After further fortifying the settled position of law related to the separation of powers, the Court exercised its contempt jurisdiction and held the respondent political parties liable for contempt of court for flouting the directions issued by it in Rambabu Singh Thakur[17]  and imposed suitable costs on the contemnors. The Bench went on to express its anguish and helplessness by observing that the hands of the judiciary have been tied by the constitutional scheme of separation of powers and that it is the need of the hour for the legislative arm of the State to carry out a major surgery for weeding out the malignancy of criminalisation in politics. Paras 75 and 76 in Brajesh Singh[18] read thus:

  1. No one can deny that the menace of criminalisation in the Indian political system is growing day by day. Also, no one can deny that for maintaining purity of political system, persons with criminal antecedents and who are involved in criminalisation of political system should not be permitted to be the lawmakers. The only question is, whether this Court can do so by issuing directions which do not have foundation in the statutory provisions.
  2. This Court, time and again, has appealed to the lawmakers of the country to rise to the occasion and take steps for bringing out necessary amendments so that the involvement of persons with criminal antecedents in polity is prohibited. All these appeals have fallen on the deaf ears. The political parties refuse to wake up from deep slumber. However, in view of the constitutional scheme of separation of powers, though we desire that something urgently requires to be done in the matter, our hands are tied and we cannot transgress into the area reserved for the legislative arm of the State. We can only appeal to the conscience of the lawmakers and hope that they will wake up soon and carry out a major surgery for weeding out the malignancy of criminalisation in politics.

Exercising its limited jurisdiction, the Supreme Court while departing with the judgment issued some further directions and clarified some previous ones. These directions were issued to the political parties as well as the Election Commission of India (ECI). The political parties were directed to publish information related to criminal antecedents of its candidates on its official website within 48 hours of selection of the candidate. The ECI was directed to create a dedicated mobile application for easy access of information to the voter. The directions included an extensive awareness campaign to be carried out by ECI to make the voter aware of his right to know and creation of a separate cell to monitor and ensure compliance of such directions.

Sequitur

However great the power is, it cannot be exercised if the field, where it is to be exercised, is compromised. The popular will of the people prevails in true sense only when the people are conscious about the representatives, they choose to form the Government and run the country. One major thing that has changed since the first general elections in the country is that the participation of such candidates with criminal antecedents has been on a substantial rise whereas, the level of awareness amongst the citizens has not been able to catch up with that rise. The judiciary since decades has been emphasising upon the purity of political system in the country and how the entry of candidates with criminal antecedents in politics has acted as an impediment in achieving the goal. It has not only hindered the free and fair elections but has shaken the very base of democracy, being the citizens of the country. The judiciary has time and again played the important role of a watchdog to the Indian democracy. The whole purpose of this drill was to ensure that the voter has an informed choice while exercising his right to vote. It is for securing the right to know of a voter which is the very fundamental of the adult franchise as well as the democratic set-up of the country. Though the courts have made their intentions about weeding out the malignancy of criminalisation in politics crystal clear, they cannot transgress into the area reserved for the legislative arm of the State due to the constitutional scheme of separation of powers. It is for the legislature to come up with solutions to such persisting problems once and for all.


2019 law graduate, Advocate and Law Clerk-cum-Research Assistant, Supreme Court of India, e-mail: <varadkilor@gmail.com>.

[1] (2021) 10  SCC 241 : 2021 SCC OnLine SC 571.

[2] <http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/fbg28G6d>.

[3] (2020) 3 SCC 733.

[4] (2019) 3 SCC 224.

[5] (2002) 5 SCC 294.

[6] (2021) 10  SCC 241 : 2021 SCC OnLine SC 571.

[7] <http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/3D658Ka7>.

[8] (2019) 3 SCC 224.

[9] <http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/yEw4UXp4>.

[10] <http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/WI0Nu79x>.

[11] (2021) 10 SCC 241, 264: 2021 SCC OnLine SC 571.

[12] I.R. Coelho v. State of T.N., (2007) 2 SCC 1.

[13] (2019) 3 SCC 224.

[14] (2021) 10  SCC 241 : 2021 SCC OnLine SC 571.

[15] (2019) 3 SCC 224

[16] (2019) 3 SCC 224

[17] (2020) 3 SCC 733.

[18] (2021) 10  SCC 241, 284 : 2021 SCC OnLine SC 571.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The vacation bench of Vineet Saran and BR Gavai, JJ has directed that YSRC MP K. Raghurama Krishnam Raju be taken to the Army Hospital Secunderabad for medical examination after it was brought to its notice that he has undergone heart bye-pass surgery very recently and that there were some injuries on his legs.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court, had, on 15.05.2021, rejected the bail of Kanumuri Raghurama Krishnam Raju who was arrested for allegedly insulting the government and those in government posts. His counsel Mukul Rohatgi, however, told the Court that Raghurama Krishnam Raju is the sitting Member of Parliament and an FIR has been filed against him because of political rivalry as though he was elected as an M.P. of YSRC but he criticized the action of said party and hence FIR has been filed because of political vendetta.

The Court, however, did not go into the merits of the aforesaid allegations and limited itself with the medical condition of the petitioner regarding which there has been remarks by the Magistrate in his order dated 15.05.2021 when he was produced before the Magistrate for remand.

The Magistrate has directed to refer Raghurama Krishnam Raju for medical examination to the “Superintendent of Government Hospital General Hospital, Guntur and Ramesh Hospital, Guntur to get examine the accused person in the presence of his security of Y category”.

The Magistrate had also noted the contention that the police had used 3rd degree methods against Raghurama Krishnam Raju, a heart patient, during his custody and he was unable to walk .

Thereafter, on the same day, the High Court directed that the medical examination be conducted by the medical board headed by the Superintendent of Government General Hospital, Guntur with other government doctors as members of the Board.

After the medical report was placed before the Supreme Court, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the State, submitted that the State Government would have no objection if Raghurama Krishnam Raju is again medically examined by an independent Central Government Hospital in the presence of a Judicial Officer.

The Court, hence, passed the following directions:

(1) Raghurama Krishnam Raju shall forthwith be taken to the Army Hospital Secunderabad for medical examination. The Y category security, provided under orders of the Delhi High Court, shall escort Kanumuri Raghurama Krishnam Raju only till the Army Hospital and need not be present at the time of medical examination.

(2) The medical examination of Raghurama Krishnam Raju shall be conducted by the medical board of three doctors of the hospital to be constituted by the head of the Army Hospital, Secunderabad, Telangana.

(3) Raghurama Krishnam Raju be medically examined in the presence of a Judicial Officer, who may be nominated by the Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court.

(4) The proceedings of medical examination of Raghurama Krishnam Raju shall be videographed and be submitted to the Registrar General of the Telangana High Court in a sealed cover for being transmitted to this Court.

(5) Raghurama Krishnam Raju shall be admitted in the Army Hospital and kept there for medical care until further orders, which shall be treated as his judicial custody. The expenses, if any, for hospitalization in the Army Hospital shall be born by Raghurama Krishnam Raju.

[Kanumuri Raghurama Krishnam Raju v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 395, order dated 17.05.2021]


For Petitioner(s): Senior Advocates Mukul Rohatgi, B. Adinarayan Rao, Byrapaneni Suyodhan, Advocate Abhijit Basu, AOR Tatini Basu

For Respondent(s): Senior Advocates Dushyant Dave, V. Giri, AOR Mahfooz A. Nazki, Advocates Polanki Gowtham, Shaik Mohamad Haneef, T. Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy, Amitabh Sinha, Shrey Sharma, K.V. Girish Chowdary

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Madras High Court: The Division Bench of Sanjib Banerjee, CJ and Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, J., while noting the upsurge of COVID-19, stated that

Public health is of paramount importance and it is distressing that Constitutional authorities have to be reminded in such regard. It is only when the citizen survives that he enjoys the other rights that this democratic republic guarantees unto him. The situation is now one of survival and protection and, everything else comes thereafter.

Instant petition pertained to the counting of votes at a solitary assembly constituency, but the larger picture cannot be missed.

Petitioner apprehended that at assembly constituency, special measures have to be taken at the time of counting to maintain COVID protocol since 77 candidates are in the fray and even though an additional hall has been arranged by the Election Commission for the purpose of counting, that may not suffice to accommodate the counting personnel and the agents of 7 candidates.

COVID Protocol not adhered

It was noted that even though the polling was by and large peaceful in this State on 6-04-2021, the Election Commission could not ensure that political parties adhered to the Covid protocol at the time of election campaigns and rallies.

Election Commission and COVID Protocol

Despite repeated orders of this Court, going on like a broken record at the foot of almost every order on an election petition, that Covid protocol ought to be maintained during the campaign time, the significance of adhering to such protocol may have been lost on the Election Commission, going by the silence on the part of the Election Commission as campaigning and rallies were conducted without distancing norms being maintained and in wanton disregard of the other requirements of the protocol.

Court expressed that due to rapid surge in the number of cases on a daily basis, albeit this State not yet being as badly affected as some other States, the measures to be adopted at the time of the counting of votes on May 2, 2021, should already have been planned in the light of the grim situation now prevailing.

Bench remarked:

At no cost should the counting result in being a catalyst for a further surge, politics or no politics, and whether the counting takes place in a staggered manner or is deferred.

 Further, as far as the Karur constituency was concerned Election Commission submitted that two halls were arranged and on Court’s query whether such spaces would be adequate if the 77 candidates were to engage agents at the time of counting, Election Commission claimed that all but two of the independent candidates indicated that they would not engage any agents while counting and only 7 out of 9 major political parties were confirmed in writing that they would be appointing agents.

In view of the prevailing situation, Election Commission did not expect that COVID protocol and appropriate measures could not be taken if counting was conducted at two designated halls.

Adding to the above, the Commission stated that 6 additional counting tables were also organized so that the distancing norms could be maintained.

Bench stated that similar appropriate measures be adopted at other counting centres and only upon maintaining regular sanitization, proper hygienic conditions, mandatory wearing of mask and adherence to distance norms, should any counting begin or be continued.

Lastly, the Court directed that State Health Secretary and Director of Public Health should be consulted by Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer responsible in the State, to put appropriate measures in place immediately.

Petitioner said that since Karur is a sensitive constituency, additional security measures should be put in place. The Returning Officer, in consultation with the Chief Electoral Officer in the State, will ensure that appropriate security measures are put in place and, if there is any apprehension of trouble or mischief, the State may be approached in this regard.

Matter to appear on 30-04-2021 to review the situation when a complete picture as to adequate steps having been taken at all counting centres should be indicated by the Election Commission. [M.R. Vijayabhaskar v. Chief Election Commissioner of India,  2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1750, decided on 26-04-2021]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: After Maharashtra witnessed a major political drama with the swearing in of Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra for a second term and NCP leader Ajit Pawar as Deputy Chief Minister, the Supreme Court has decided to assemble on Sunday to hear the joint plea of Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party and Indian National Congress against the decision of Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari inviting Devendra Fadnavis to form the government.

The parties have sought quashing of the Governor’s decision saying the Governor’s decision is “unconstitutional, arbitrary, illegal, void-ab-initio, and violative of
Article 14 of Constitution of India”. The plea also seeks direction to the Governor to invite the alliance of Maha Vikas Aghadi comprising of the Shiv Sena, Indian National Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party which has the support of more than 144 MLAs to form the Government under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray

The Court will assemble at 11:30 to hear the matter tomorrow.

(Source: ANI)

Call For PapersLaw School News

Gujarat National Law University publishes an interdisciplinary journal titled the GNLU Journal of Law, Development and Politics as part of the overall academic and research activity of the University. GJLDP aims to examine the inter-disciplinary aspect between Law, Development and Politics to initiate discussion and analyze the various issues that are being faced by various nations including India and propose solution for the same.

As we proceed to unveil the 9 the volume (1 & 2) issue of the Journal, we invite contribution to the journal in the form of articles, commentaries, original articles, review articles, book reviews, comments and discussion within the aim and scope of the journal.

Click HERE for more details.

law, development and politics