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Voters must have adequate notice of the dis-qualifications of an election candidate: Bombay High Court

In order to consider the votes cast in favour of a successful candidate, it must be proved that voters had adequate notice and were aware of the disqualifications of the candidate contesting elections and in spite of such knowledge, they went ahead and casted their vote for that particular candidate. A single-judge bench comprising of Justice C.V. Bhadang, while adjudicating the matter in Mr Ashok Rajam Raul v. Mr Mandar Pramod Vichare; [CIVIL WRIT PETITION NO.4838 OF 2019], dealt with the issue of awareness of voters about the credibility of candidates contesting elections.

The general elections of the Municipal Corporation were held in which the petitioner and the respondent Nos.1 to 4 were the contesting candidates. In the said election, the petitioner polled highest number of votes being. The petitioner having secured the highest number of votes was declared elected. The first respondent filed election petition before the learned Civil Judge, challenging the election of the petitioner on the ground that the petitioner was disqualified to contest the said election and on account of a material irregularity in the election proceedings and the corrupt practice. In short, according to the first respondent, the petitioner filed his nomination form furnishing false, misleading and incomplete information. While elaborating the said ground, it was contended that the petitioner had disclosed in the nomination form that there is only one criminal case pending against him, while there were two other criminal cases in which the petitioner was facing trial. According to the first respondent, the following two criminal cases were not disclosed by the petitioner while filling the nomination form.

The counsel appearing for the petitioner stated that by furnishing such false, incomplete and misleading information, the petitioner has misled and mis-represented to the voters of the constituency about his clean image “resulting in supremacy over other candidates”. According to the first respondent, on account of such misleading information, the voters were induced by the petitioner, to cast votes in favour of the petitioner, although the petitioner was facing offences of cheating, criminal breach of trust and other offences, involving moral turpitude. It is contended that this has materially affected the result of the election.

The Court upon considering the aforesaid facts stated that “The legal position is well settled. In order to treat the votes cast in favour of the successful candidate (whose election is set aside for having incurred a disqualification and/or improper acceptance of the nomination paper) it ought to be proved that the voters had adequate notice and were aware of the disqualification and in spite of such knowledge voted for the candidate. This requirement of notice to the voters arises only where there are more contestants than two. Thus, such a requirement of the notice would not arise where there are only two candidates in the fray. This is because in such a case if the Trial Court finds that the nomination of the successful/elected candidate was wrongly accepted, there would only be one candidate left in the fray not requiring any election.”

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