On the last day of campaigning on Friday, the Punjab and Haryana High Court allowed Sukhdev Singh Patwari, Shiromani Akali Dal candidate for ward number 47 of the Mohali Municipal Corporation, to contest the election scheduled for February 22.
The court directed the returning officer to accept Patwari’s nomination papers, but ruled that the election result of the ward would not be declared and produced in a sealed cover in the court at the next hearing on February 27.
Counting of votes for the 50-member corporation will be held on February 26.
The court order meant that Patwari got a few hours to campaign in which he held a rally in Sector 70 and interacted with the residents of his ward. Earlier, the court was informed that Patwari had filed his nomination papers on February 11 along with Amrik Singh Gill as covering candidate, but the returning officer rejected their nomination papers on February 12.
Appearing for Patwari, senior advocate Satya Pal Jain contended that under the Punjab State Election Commission Act, 1994, the returning officer was not authorised to reject the nomination papers on the grounds of any defect which was not of a substantial character.
It was submitted that the petitioner and his covering candidate had mentioned their old number in the electoral rolls — 748 in place of 1,146 of the candidate and 740 instead of 1,135 of the proposer. Under law, if there was any defect in the nomination papers, an opportunity was required to be provided to the candidate which was not done.
The bench, headed by Justice A K Mittal, said, “After hearing the learned counsel for the parties, prima facie we feel substance in the arguments raised by the learned counsel for the petitioner.”
Wasting no time after the court’s orders, Patwari filed his nomination papers once again and campaigned in his ward until the deadline of 4 pm. He said that even though he could spend only a few hours campaigning, he was confident of his victory as the public supported him.
“The court’s order proves that the returning officer acted in a biased manner while rejecting Patwari’s papers. The court has now proved that Patwari was a victim. The returning officer should have pointed out the error while the papers were being submitted,” said SAD district in-charge Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, after the court’s verdict. BJP general secretary Subhash Sharma said that the voters would give a befitting reply to those who conspired against Patwari.