The Supreme Court has junked a Bombay High Court ruling related to the Maharashtra assembly polls, saying the constitutional bar on ‘interfering’ in the election process was like the Great Wall of China.
Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice Aftab Alam, constituting a bench, Tuesday scrapped the high court order that had asked the Election Commission to allow a candidate to contest despite the rejection of his nomination papers. It agreed with the poll panel’s contention that ‘the constitutional bar for the courts from interfering into any election process was like a Great Wall of China that no courts can cross.’
The Election Commission had moved the apex court challenging the high court order, which had asked it to allow one Yadvarao Bhimrao Suryawanshi, a candidate from the registered but unrecognized Jansurajya Shakti Party, to run in the Oct 13 Maharashtra assembly elections from the Omerga reserved constituency despite the rejection of his nomination papers.
The returning officer for the Omerga constituency had invalidated Suryawanshi’s nomination papers on the ground that they had listed the wrong voter serial number of one of the 10 voters of his constituency who had proposed his candidature.
As per electoral laws, for a candidate set up by anyone other than a recognized political party, his or her name has to be proposed by 10 voters of the constituency and Suryawanshi had failed to stick to this stipulation in letter and spirit.
As Suryawanshi approached the high court, challenging the returning officer’s order rejecting his nomination, the high court ruled that his nomination paper had been wrongly rejected as quoting a wrong voter serial number was not a substantial defect.
The high court said the law should be applied intelligently and with common sense and the nomination papers must not be rejected for technical errors or clerical discrepancies.
The high court asked the state election commission office to include Surywanshi’s name in the ballot papers. Arguing that since voting takes place in India through electronic voting machines, a few hundred or thousand ballot papers, which are to be sent outside the constituency for out-of-station voters, could be printed afresh with Suryawanshi’s name.
But the Election Commission moved the apex court, with senior counsel Ashok Desai contending that it was the basic postulate of electoral law that once the election process is set in motion, no court need interfere in it.
‘It’s like a China wall and no courts can cross it,’ said Desai, adding that the remedy to any perceived wrong caused to any candidate during the election process is only an election petition which could be filed only after the election is over.
Pointing out the logistical problems that would be faced by the poll panel in following the high court’s order, Desai said it would mean reprogramming thousands of EVMs, and reprinting thousands of ballot papers would not be feasible in such a short span of time before Oct 13, the polling day.
Appreciating the constitutional scheme, the bench suspended the high court order.