Updated: July 10, 2021 4:50:06 pm
The Gujarat High Court on July 8 rejected a plea moved by a BJP candidate who had contested the Pimpan taluka panchayat in Sanand division of Ahmedabad and claimed stake to the seat after the independent poll winner died.
Independent candidate Lilaben Thakore and the petitioner, BJP nominated candidate Sonalba Vaghela, fought the election to the Pimpan electoral division of the Sanand Taluka Panchayat. The polling took place on February 28 and the counting was scheduled on March 2. However, Thakore passed away on March 1, a day before the counting. The election officer proceeded with the counting of the votes on March 2 and declared Thakore as the winner, who secured 2,163 votes. Petitioner Vaghela, on the other hand, secured 1,409 votes. Although Thakore secured the highest votes, the election officer was not able to give effect to the result of the election with respect to the Pimpan electoral division of the Sanand Taluka Panchayat on account of Thakore’s death.
It was the case of the petitioner that as Thakore was an independent candidate and Vaghela being nominated by a political party, Vaghela should have been declared the winner having secured the second highest votes. It was also the petitioner’s case that since the election officer had been informed of Thakore’s death on March 1 itself, the election officer should not have counted the votes secured by late Thakore and even if the election officer thought fit to count the votes of late Thakore, those should have been set apart and he should have declared the petitioner as the winner having secured the second highest votes.
The state election commission, on the other hand, submitted before the court that there is “no other option now but to declare a by-election.”
The court found that existing election rules do not mention what to do in the event of a death of an independent candidate after the commencement of the poll and before the declaration and publication of the names of the elected members including the publication of the result.
The bench also stated that the “only option now left for the State Election Commission is to give a by-election in accordance with law,” while adding the bench is dealing with an “important facet of democratic activity,” and thus the “rules have to be interpreted in a pragmatic and practical manner, consistent with the larger objective and actual difficulties faced in the conduct of election.”
The court observed, “In the case on hand, even if Lilaben Thakore had passed away a day before the date of the polling, her name could not have been struck off from the ballot paper. However, here is a case in which, on the date of the polling, Lilaben Thakore was very much alive and she passed away a day before the counting of the votes. In such circumstances, we are of the view that the votes cast in favour of Thakore cannot be said to be invalid… We are of the view that not only technically but even officially the deceased person having secured the highest valid votes under the provision of law has to be declared to have been elected, but the result would be a notional one.”
The bench opined that if a candidate dies after the poll and before the declaration of the result, “then naturally he/she will not be able to fill the seat by reason of his/her death and the only remedy left would be to have a by-election within the stipulated period of time.”
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