Election Documents Cannot Be Disclosed Unless the Election Procedure Is Challenged: Madras High Court

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Excerpt

A division bench led by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy heard a petition submitting an issue that the Election Commission may have diverse documents, including the paper trail relating to voting in the electronic public or person, unless it challenges the election in accord with the procedure established.

Facts

Writ Petition was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for issuance of a Writ of Mandamus directing the Respondents to properly upload Form 7A – the List of the Contesting Candidates, Form A and Form B submitted by the contested, rejected and withdrawn sponsored candidates of the Recognised National and State Political Parties, Form-21C, Declaration of the Result of Election and Form 21 E – the return of Election Certificate of all the constituencies during the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly General Election 2021 and the No. 39 Kanyakumari Parliamentary by Election 2021 in the websites of the Respondents well before 15.7.2017, the last date of filing the Election Petition in Tamil Nadu within the stipulated time. 

Argument

The Petitioner complained that all documents available with the Election Commission about the recently concluded State Assembly elections were not being uploaded on the Commission’s website. There has to be an element of reasonableness exercised in every endeavour and the matter of practical difficulties must also be appreciated. The Election Commission may be in possession of diver’s documents, including the paper trail relating to voting in the electronic voting machines. However, these documents are not required to be uploaded or made available to any person unless they were challenged following the election procedure established and the question is before the appropriate forum.

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Court’s observation

The court observed that it is needless to say that a person has to have the mandatory position to institute an election petition and all the others may not question an election unless such person is a defeated candidate. The Election Commission has filed an affidavit indicating that several of the documents are uploaded for general information on the Commission’s website. The Election Commission says that there are other documents available with the Election Commission, from which extracts may be supplied upon any person applying for certified copies thereof. Such other documents are also open to inspection. The substance of the Election Commission’s submission is that the entire material cannot be opened up to any bystander or passer-by to obtain copies unless such person was a candidate at the election relating to that constituency.

Court’s decision

The Court requested the Election Commission to ensure that if any certified copies of any documents are sought and open to the Petitioner, the same if available then be issued with speed and efficiency as soon as possible upon payment of the due charges.

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