Case Title: P. Milany … Petitioner
S. Arumugamand Ors. … Respondents
Date of Decision: Reserved On 30.06.2023.
Pronounced On 06.07.2023.
Coram: THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE S.S. SUNDAR.
Citation: ELP. No.4/2019.
This election petition is filed to declare the election of the 3rd respondent/Returned Candidate on 23.05.2019 from No.33, Then Parliamentary Constituency as null and void and to pass such further or other orders as this Court deems fit and appropriate. The Election Commission of India declared Lok Sabha General election on 10.03.2019. As per the Schedule of Election, the first day for issuing nomination was on 19.03.2019 and the last date for receiving nomination was on 26.03.2019. The date for scrutiny of nominations was fixed on 27.03.2019 and the last date for withdrawal of nominations was on 29.03.2019 before 5.00 p.m. 18.04.2019 was the date of polling and 23.05.2019 was the date of counting and for declaration of election results. This Election Petition is filed on 08.07.2019 within time. The petitioner has filed this petition as an elector challenging the election of 3rd respondent as representative of Theni Parliamentary Constituency on grounds referring to Section 81, 100[a], 100[b], 100[d][i], 100[d][ii], 100[d][iii], 100[d][iv], 33, 36, 77, 123[A][b], 123[B][b] of the Representation of People Act, 1951 read with Rules 88, 89 of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. The election petition is filed mainly on the ground of suppression of assets and liabilities in Form-26 of election affidavit filed under Rule 4A of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, improper acceptance of nomination by the Returning Officer and corrupt practices by the associates of the 3rd respondent with the consent of third respondent. It is not in dispute that the then ruling party in the State fielded 3rd respondent as a candidate in All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [AIADMK] Party under ‘two leaves’ symbol. It is also admitted that the 3rd respondent is the son of the then Deputy Chief Minister of the State Mr.O.Panneerselvam. Mr.E.V.K.S.Elangovan, who contested as a candidate of Indian National Congress in ‘hands’ symbol is the 2nd respondent herein and many other candidates who contested the election, did not participate in the Election Petition. Though the 19th respondent filed a counter supporting the petition and gave evidence as PW2, he did not participate in the proceedings by engaging an Advocate. The other respondents, except the 3rd respondent, have not contested the election petition.
Justice SS Sundar passed the order on an election petition filed by Milany, a voter from the constituency, who had challenged his election on the ground of suppression of sources of income and bribing of voters. Milany had submitted that the MP had mentioned only agriculture and business as his sources of income and not disclosed the income that he received as the director of a private company. He added that assets, investments, sources of income, shares, financial loans and liabilities were suppressed in the affidavit filed by Ravindranath at the time of nomination. Milany had also submitted a CD containing video evidence, circulated during the election, allegedly showing voters being bribed. Though Ravindranath had filed a petition to dismiss the election petition, the same was rejected by the court. Thereafter, Ravindranath appeared before the court and denied all allegations of misrepresentation and bribe. The court noted that as per Section 123 of the Representation of The People Act 1951, the person who alleges bribery should establish such bribery by way of gift, offer or promise. by a candidate or his agent or by any person with the consent of the candidate or his election agent. In the present case, the court observed that though Milany had alleged bribery by a lady, he could not establish that she was performing such acts as an agent of Ravindranath. “In such circumstances, though the petitioner’s case that there was bribery by a lady, it was not established with positive evidence that a lady by name Mrs. Saveetha Arunprasad has indulged in bribing the electors/voters either as an agent appointed by 3rd respondent or his chief agent or acted with the consent of 3rd respondent. Therefore, this Court is unable to hold that the petitioner has established corrupt practices as defined under section 123 of the RP Act, 1951,” the court observed.
With respect to non-disclosure, the court was satisfied that Ravindranath had not disclosed his assets correctly. The court also refused to accept Ravindranath’s explanation that the discrepancy was a result of a typographical error. The court further observed that if such discrepancies were condoned in the absence of an explanation or supporting document, it would go against the principles laid down by the Supreme Court to save democracy as part of the basic structure of the Constitution. “For all the reasons stated above, this Court holds that the affidavit filed under Rule 4[A] of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, has not been validly made, Further this Court holds that the Returned Candidate has suppressed his assets equivalent to the value of 15,000 equity shares in M/s. Vani Fabrics Private Limited allegedly transferred by the Returned Candidate in favour of his brother and other assets and sources of income as admitted by him. Further, the 3rd respondent has given a false information in the Election Affidavit filed under Rule 4[A] of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961,” the court observed.
“This Court, from the facts as seen from the documents and evidence, finds that the Returning Officer has not conducted the scrutiny of nominations strictly in terms of Section 36 of the RP Act, 1951 and instructions given under the Hand Book. She has shown her partisan attitude in favour of 3rd respondent at the time of scrutiny. As a consequence, this Court holds that the nomination of 3rd respondent has been improperly accepted by the Returning Officer,” the court noted. The suppression has not materially affected the result of the election. Pointing out that the 3rd respondent has won the election with huge margin of 76,000 votes, he submitted that the election of 3rd respondent in this case, cannot be declared as void on the ground of suppression. The Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the case of Sri Meirembam Prithiviraj @ Prithviraj Singh Vs. Pukhrem Sharatchandra Singh reported in 2017 SCC 487, has rejected the contention of the returned candidate that under Section 100[d] of the RP Act, 1951, that there must be proof proof that the result of the election was materially affected by improper acceptance of nomination. Suppression is proved. As a consequence, this Court holds that nomination of the returned candidate had been improperly accepted. In view of the conclusions reached above on all issues, this Court has to allow the election petition and declare the election of the 3rd respondent / returned candidate as void. In the result, the Election Petition in ELP.No.4/2019 is allowed and the election of 3rd respondent / Returned Candidate on 23.05.2019 from No.33, Then Parliamentary Constituency is declared as null and void.
The Madras High Court has declared the election of P. Ravindranath, son of former Tamil Nadu CM O Paneerselvan and the sole Member of Parliament from the AIADMK party null and void. The court however kept the order in abeyance for a month, to enable appeal against the order.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY JANGAM SHASHIDHAR.