The full bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday held that a candidate for the January 15 gram panchayat elections, whose nomination has been rejected by a returning officer (RO), cannot challenge the same by filing a writ petition before a court prior to the polls.
The HC held that such candidates can dispute the election of the winning candidate, citing the rejection of their nomination forms, by moving court after the poll results are declared.
Chief Justice (CJ) Dipankar Datta, along with Justice A S Gadkari and Justice G S Kulkarni, was hearing a reference made to it by a two judge bench on whether challenge through filing a writ plea in court, seeking relief like setting aside the RO’s rejection order, was maintainable.
On January 4, a division bench of CJ Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni had referred to the full bench pleas by 11 people from Solapur district, who intended to contest the gram panchayat polls and were aggrieved as the RO had rejected their nominations.
The petitioners had claimed that such orders were illegal and arbitrary and sought that these be quashed and set aside. They had also sought direction to the State Election Commission to cancel the gram panchayat elections stating that polls were not being conducted as per provisions of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, 1958.
The court, however, held that such a petition could not be entertained in view of “clearly” applicable Article 243-O (b) of the Constitution, which provides that no election to any panchayat shall be called in question except by an election petition presented to such authority.
On the lack of provisions related to appeal against the rejection by the RO, the court said: “If indeed, the issue is so serious that ROs are inefficient and incapable of discharging the solemn duty entrusted to them, it is for the state legislature to make appropriate provisions in the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, 1958.”
It added: “After all, the legislature expresses the will of the people. An issue which could be dealt with by the legislature cannot be solved by a judicial fiat.”
Ultimately, the full bench held that petitions against the rejection of nomination papers prior to polls are not maintainable at this stage and the same “represents the correct view of law”.
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