Writ Petitions challenging the election process dismissed: Kerala High Court

‘A batch of writ petitions’ were dismissed by the Kerala High Court wherein the court observed that since the court could not facilitate the completion of the election process, it could not exercise its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution. The single judge bench consisting of J. P B Suresh Kumar, shed light upon the scope of jurisdiction of the court in matters of election in the case of Biju Jacob v. State Election Commission [WPC 23297 of 2020].

The petitioner in this batch of writ petition challenged the allocation of reserved seats to different wards/divisions alleging that the aforesaid wards/divisions were successively reserved for two consecutive years (2010 and 2015) and have been reserved again this year. The learned counsel for the petitioner relying on K.T. Eldhouse v. State of Kerala [WP (C) No. 21038 of 2020(D)], argued that “reserving a seat successively beyond two occasions, when reserved seats could be distributed in a manner that no seat would go reserved more than twice successively, is against the scheme of Articles 243D and 243T of the Constitution and also the relevant provisions contained in the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 and the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994”. In the aforementioned judgement, the court directed the respondents to re-allocate the reserved seats. In the present case, the petitioners too were seeking such directions from court.

The counsel for the Election Commission, referring to the petitioner as ‘fence sitters’, argued that the court should not interfere with the decisions of the commission as it would interrupt and protract the election which has already been announced on 06.11.2020. Further it was argued that “if the writ petitions are allowed  if the writ petitions are allowed, as the nomination for the election needs to be submitted from 12.11.2020, there would be hardly any time to comply with the directions, for allocation of reserved seats afresh involves draw of lots after public notice regarding the time, date and place fixed for draw of lots”.

The HC, relying on the judgment of A.K.M. Hassan Uzzaman v. Union of India [(1982) 2 SCC 218], wherein it was held that “if interference in a matter relating to election is likely to interrupt, obstruct or protract the election in any manner, the Court shall not exercise the power under Article 226”, decided to refrain from exercising its jurisdiction in this matter. The court also relied on Election Commission of India v. Ashok Kumar [(2000) 8 SCC 216] and further held that “the court shall interfere in matters relating to election only if it subserves the progress of the election and facilitates the completion of the election. True, the election process has not formally commenced inasmuch as the notification is yet to be published. But in so far as the election has already been announced and since it is found that this Court may not be in a position to complete the adjudication in these matters before the date for filing of the nominations, having regard to the spirit of the judgments of the Apex Court aforesaid, I am of the view that I should refrain from exercising my jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution in these matters. I take this view also for the reason that the term of the local bodies in the State is due to expire on 11.11.2020 and the mandate of Articles 243E and 243U of the Constitution is that the election to constitute new local bodies is to be conducted before the expiry of the term of the earlier local bodies. In the circumstances, the writ petitions are dismissed”.

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