The Delhi High Court dismissed the petition filed by the 11 candidates who were desirous to contest elections against the chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal as not maintainable. The petition was filed against the rejection of their nomination papers.
On 20/01/2020 pursuant to the collective decision made under the movement ‘chaloochunaavlaade” to contest the Delhi election individually, the petitioners arrived at the election office with duly filled nomination papers, supporting documents and security money. Upon arriving at the office, the petitioners found that a large number of candidates were already present and several other candidates were also reaching at the election office. Owing to the large number of candidates present at the election office, the election officer for the sake of administrative convenience adopted token system, wherein the candidates were given token to file nomination papers as per the serial number.
After collecting nomination papers from few candidates, the election officer refused to receive the nomination papers from rest of the candidates and asked the remaining candidates to come again on the next day to file their nomination papers which is against the election rules that mandate the election officer to receive the nomination papers on the same day on which the candidate is present within the specified time. The refusal of election officer to receive the nomination papers is illegal and arbitrary. However the candidates were assured that the tokens issued would remain valid and that they would be called first before the fresh candidates arriving on 21/01/2020.
On the next day i.e. 21/01/2020, to the shock and surprise of the petitioners and the other candidates who were issued token on the previous day, the election officer had cancelled the token system instead was noting down the names of the candidates present at the election office in a blank sheet which was also cancelled later on that day as the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejiriwal arrived at the election office to file his nomination papers. The police officers thrashed the candidates standing in the queue as they raised objection for facilitating the Chief Minister to file his nomination papers immediately. Due to the arbitrary action of the police officers, the petitioners and other candidates could not file their nomination papers.
On 23/01/2020 few candidates made representation to the chief Electoral officer and to The Secretary, Ministry of law, Justice and company affairs (Legislative Department) seeking enquiry against the election officer for the incident happened and for cancellation of nomination of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal due to whom the other candidates were not able to file their nomination papers.However there was no response and hence the petitioners filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court.
The petitioners filed the writ of mandamus praying following reliefs:
1. To direct the election commission and other concerned officials to provide possible reasonable time for the petitioners and other candidates to file their nomination papers thereby facilitating them to contest in upcoming election.
2. To direct the election commission and other officials to adopt a feasible mechanism that enable the candidates to file their nomination papers without being subjected to complexities, consequently restoring the rights provided under Article 5, 14 and 173 of constitution of India.
3. To direct the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company affairs (legislative Department) to provide guidelines forthe Election Commission of India to facilitate smooth filing of nomination papers and for adopting procedures connected thereto.
The legal issue that aroused before the High Court of Delhi is the maintainability of the writ petition filed by the 11 candidates. The petitioners filed writ petition under Article 226 of Indian Constitution. However Article 329(b) of the constitution bars the jurisdiction of the court which states that any dispute pertaining to the election must be decided by the appropriate authority byan election petition. Further Section 100 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 provides for the grounds on which the high court could declare an election as void.
The respondents argued that the petition is not maintainable as per the Article 329(b) of constitution of India and section 100 of Representation of people Act, 1951. However the petitioner argued that election petition is not an effective remedy as revoking the election would cause huge inconvenience to the stakeholders and further remarked that it would take 3 to 4 years for an election petition to conclude.
The single bench Judge, Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva while expressing his displeasure on the remarks made by the counsel for petitioners ruled that right to fight an election is not a civil right, whereas is a statutory right. The court without examining the merits of the case dismissed the writ petition as not maintainable under Article 226 of Indian Constitution.
Edited by J. Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje