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‘Courts can’t cancel polls on conduct code’

Clarifying that it was not for a court to adjudicate on the charges of violations of model code of conduct during an election campaign...

Clarifying that it was not for a court to adjudicate on the charges of violations of model code of conduct during an election campaign,a Delhi court judge has held that ensuring free and fair election was a “constitutional obligation” of the Election Commission and that the guidelines had to be complied with in letter and spirit.

In an order that assumes significance in the backdrop of the Election Commission ordering a criminal case against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s son M K Stalin for allegedly distributing money to voters in a bypoll there,the court has said the agency was in fact obliged under the law to guarantee fairness in the democratic process and do whatever was necessary for bringing its violators to book without the judicial intervention.

Additional District Judge (ADJ) Kamini Lau served,“Apparently,the model code of conduct has no statutory backing and many of its provisions are not legally enforceable,and it is the political parties which have themselves consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code.”

However,the court pointed to the constitutional obligation put on the judiciary and the Commission towards the democratic process and said while a judge lacked the statutory power to annul any election over violation of model code of conduct,it was well within its authority to direct and remind the Election Commission of its duty of ensuring free and fair elections.

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“Legally,the election cannot be set aside by the court on the ground of violation of the model code of conduct,yet the courts of law are not helpless and directions can always be issued against the Election Commission to compel them to act and fulfil their constitutional obligation,” said the ADJ in a recent order.

“Incidents of voters being subjected to all kind of inducements,evil practices,tempting offers or a candidate misusing and abusing his authority are not rare. Can,then the Election Commission abdicate its constitutional obligation when confronted with such a violation? The answer obviously is ‘No’,” observed the court.

Maintaining that the model code of conduct laid down certain minimum standards of good behaviour and conduct of political parties,candidates,their workers and supporters during the election campaigns,the court said the constitutional obligation upon the Commission was to ensure its compliance in letter and spirit,and that its violations did not go unnoticed,unattended and unpunished.

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“The Election Commission is armed with sufficient authority and jurisdiction to hold any inquiry,take necessary steps,and issue any directions or orders to ensure purity in elections by appropriately dealing with the violations,” the ADJ noted.

The court made these observations while dismissing an election petition filed by Khem Chand Koli,a BJP candidate who had challenged election of Darshana Jatav,a Congress nominee,from the Bhogal municipal ward here on the ground of violations of model code of conduct.

The court,however,ordered that a copy of the petitioner’s complaint should be sent to the State Election Commission.

First published on: 09-01-2009 at 12:56:03 am
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