The Supreme Court ruled that holding a dharna in front of the Panchayat office, cannot be taken as a ground for declaring an Election Void.
Aggrieved by the Judgment passed by the High Court of Kerala, confirming an order passed by the Additional District Judge setting aside his election as Councilor of Ward No.5 of Annamanada Gram Panchayath, in the elections held in November 2015, the elected candidate came up with the appeals.
Advocate Ragenth Basant, appearing for the appellant, submitted that the nondisclosure of the conviction for a petty offence and that too relating to the holding of a dharna on a political issue, cannot be termed as “undue influence” within the meaning of Section 120 (2) of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act and that, therefore, the election of the appellant ought not to have been declared void on the ground that it was vitiated by corrupt practice under Section 102 (1) (b) of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act.
Senior Advocate P.V. Surendranath, appearing for the respondent (Election Petitioner), submitted that the deliberate suppression by the appellant, in the nomination form filed in Form 2A, of his conviction for a criminal offence, squarely fell within the definition of the expression “undue influence” under Section 120(2) of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act.
The division bench of Justice S.Abdul Nazeer and Justice V. Ramasubramanian observed that the words “involvement in a criminal case at the time of filing of the nomination” would only mean cases where a criminal complaint is pending investigation/trial; cases where the conviction and/or sentence is current at the time of filing of the nomination; and cases where the conviction is the subject matter of any appeal or revision pending at the time of the nomination.
The court further observed that the failure to make a true disclosure in Form 2A, regarding the past conviction, will certainly come within the meaning of the word ‘fake’, mentioned in clause (ca) of sub section (1) of Section 102.
It was said by the court that form No.2A goes far beyond the requirement of Section 52(1A). The appellant admittedly failed to furnish details of his past conviction in Form No.2A. Therefore, the ground on which his election was sought to be declared void, falls squarely within Section 102(1)(ca) of the Act.
The bench stated that neither Section 52(1A) read with Rule 6 and Form 2A nor Section 102 (1) (ca) of the Act nor the decisions in Association for Democratic Reforms, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) or Krishnamoorthy can be stretched to such an extent that the failure of the appellant to disclose his conviction for an offence under the Kerala Police Act for holding a dharna in front of the Panchayat office, is taken as a ground for declaring an election void.
“The Kerala Police Act, 1960 is actually the 39 successor legislation of certain police enactments of the colonial era, whose object was to scuttle the democratic aspirations of the indigenous population. This aspect should be kept in mind before applying blindfold, the principle ‘what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’”, the court said.
The bench held that that the District Court and the High Court were wrong in declaring the election of the appellant to be void on the ground that the failure of the appellant to disclose in Form 2A, his conviction under the Kerala Police Act amounted to ‘undue influence on the free exercise of the electoral right’ and also a violation of Section 52 (1A) read with Section 102 (1) (ca) of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act.
Case title: Ravi Namboothiri v/s K.A. Baiju & Ors.
Citation: Civil appeal nos. 82618262 of 2022