The Supreme Court on Friday refused to set aside the elections to the 20,159 seats won unopposed by Trinamool Congress candidates in the local body polls in West Bengal. The opposition had accused the ruling party of resorting to violence to prevent its candidates from filing nominations. The court said that each case will have to be examined separately by way of an election petition and it cannot make a “general assumption”.
“For this court to set aside elections to over 20,000 seats would be to prejudge the basic issue as to whether in each of those constituencies, the election stands vitiated by obstruction having been caused to candidates from filing their nominations. A general assumption of this nature cannot be made. Ultimately, whether this is correct would depend upon the evidence adduced in the facts of individual cases where such a grievance has been made in an election petition,” a bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud ruled.
The court cited its limitations to intervene in the matter and said that an election petition was the way out. “The electoral process is afforded sanctity in a democracy. That is the reason why in a consistent line of precedent, this court has insisted (earlier judgments) upon the discipline of the law being followed so that any challenge to the validity of an election has to be addressed by adopting the remedy of an election petition provided under the governing statute,” the bench said in its judgment.
The bench gave 30 days — starting from the date on which results are published in the official gazette — to file election petitions with respect to uncontested seats.
The court said, “…the question as to whether there was a large scale obstruction from filing nominations is a serious matter which needs to be resolved. This is particularly because even the Election Commission, as we have seen, had proceeded to take notice of the grim situation while extending the date for the filing of nominations.”
The order came on an appeal filed by the State Election Commission, challenging the Calcutta High Court direction dated May 8, 2018, to it to accept nominations via electronic format. The apex court set aside the high court verdict. It found that “neither the Panchayat Elections Act nor the Rules contemplate the filing of nominations in the electronic form”. “Any reform of the electoral process to permit the filing of nominations electronically would have to be carried out by a legislative amendment. The High Court ought not to have issued a mandatory direction of this nature in the face of the specific provisions contained in the Panchayat Elections Act and Rules,” it ruled.
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