A division bench led by Honorable Justice Joymalya Bagchi and Justice M. Ganga Rao heard a writ petition seeking to countermand the polling conducted in the Tirupati District on April 17, on the ground of fraudulent polling and booth capturing.
The first petitioner countermanded the polling on the ground of large-scale incidents of fraudulent polling and booth capturing. The petitioner also mentioned a large number of people being transported to indulge in large-scale fake voting. The fake voters when confronted by the officers, threatened the officers and were made to leave without casting votes. It is further contended these proxy voters had been supplied with fake voter identity cards and when they were confronted by officers of the 1st respondent and election agents of the petitioner, they became afraid and hurriedly left the spot without casting their votes. The administrative machinery of the State acted in a partisan manner and despite FIRs lodged against members of the ruling party, instead of arresting the fake voters they allowed them to escape from the spot. There is ample evidence that the ruling party had forged identity proofs and transported thousands of people to cast fake votes in 322 polling booths.
The second petitioner, who was another candidate, raised allegations of fake voting. According to the petition, thousands of men and women were brought in a private bus with fake voter IDs to vote for the ruling party. Thousands of fake voter identity cards and slips were printed with a view to get additional thirty thousand votes in favor of the ruling political party. In spite of complaints made to police, no action was taken and none of the miscreants were arrested. Hence, prayer was made to hold a re-poll in the said parliamentary constituency.
Both writ petitions involved similar facts and laws and therefore are heard together.
The respondent in the case argued that every step to ensure the free, fair, and impartial election was taken. Also stated that the complaints of the petitioners were addressed and upon assessment with the materials the decision to not hold a re-poll was taken. The respondent further mentions that the writ petitions are not maintainable under article 329(b) of the constitution read along with section 80 of the Act of 1951. Therefore making these petitions not maintainable and to be dismissed.
The petitions argued that the part under Article 329(b) of the constitution of India is not an absolute one and in case of exception where the election authorities degrade the democracy due to muscle power, the court is not powerless and should intervene and take appropriate measures regarding the election process. They argued the decision of the election commission to go through judicial review.
Democracy is a basic feature of the Constitution and elections conducted at regularly prescribed intervals are essential to the democratic system envisioned in the Constitution. Supervising, directing, and control over elections are vested in the Election Commission constituted under Article 324 of the Constitution of India. Article 329 of the Constitution of India bars interference by Courts in election matters. This constitutional scheme read with the provisions of the Act of 1951 makes it clear that any dispute arising regarding election would be open to adjudication by way of an Election Petition instituted under the provisions of the Act of 1951 and not otherwise. The case of Mohindar Singh Gill v. The Chief Election Commissioner referred to the Supreme court mentioned article 329 as ‘the Great Wall of China’ which no court would ordinarily breach.
The courts said the decision taken by the Election commission to decline any act claimed by the petitioners is an ambit under the election commission and can be questioned through an Election Petition only, it cannot be intervened by the court. The bar for entertaining an election dispute under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is not a self-imposed restriction like the existence of an alternative statutory remedy. It is a constitutional bar grafted under Article 329(b) of the Constitution which is preceded by a non-obstante clause. Therefore, Article 329(b) of the Constitution prevails over the powers of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Hence, the writ petitions are dismissed as not maintainable.
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