Kerala High Court Dismisses Writ Petitions Challenging Orders of Election Commission

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On 20th November 2020, The Kerala High Court involving a single bench judge of Honourable Justice A. Muhamed Mastaque heard the case of Nazeema vs The Kerala State Election Commission.

Facts of the Case

Writ petitions were filed challenging the orders of the Election Commission disqualifying the petitioners as members of the Kollengode Grama Panchayat. The petitioners, R. Padmanabhan and Nazeema, were elected as the members of the Grama Panchayat as candidates of the Indian National Congress (INC) based on an election held in October 2010. T. Viswanathan, who was elected as a member of the Grama Panchayat as an INC candidate along with the petitioners filed a petition to disqualify the petitioners as members of the Grama Panchayat alleging violation of the whip issued by the Congress party regarding the election of President and Vice President of the Grama Panchayat on 24/7/2014 and for voluntarily giving up of their membership of Congress.

It was alleged in the petition before the Election Commission that the District President issued a whip to all the members to vote in favour of one K.Guruvayoorappan, a nominee for the Vice President. Padmanabhan, one of the petitioners herein was proposed by another member Prathibha. He got elected with the support of Left Democratic Front (LDF) to the post of Vice President in the election held on 24/7/2014.

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It was further alleged that the District Congress Committee decided not to nominate anyone to the post of the President. However, Prathibha from Congress stood as a candidate and, Padmanabhan and Nazeema proposed and seconded her candidature. It was also alleged that to help the nominee of LDF namely Radha, Padmanabhan did not sign the nomination paper of Prathibha, purposefully, resulting in rejection of the nomination of Prathibha. Accordingly, Radha was elected as the President. The Commission found that the petitioners were liable to be disqualified on both the limbs referable under Section 3(1) (a) of the Kerala Local Authorities (Prohibition of Defection Act,) 1999 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Defection Act’).

Petitioner’s Arguments

The petitioner contended that there was no valid service of the whip. The learned counsel placed reliance on the judgment of this Court in George Elamplakkadu v. A.V.Mathew to contend that without service of the whip on the Secretary of the local authority, the petitioners cannot be disqualified based on the second limb of Section 3(1) (a) of the Defection Act for defying the whip. It is also contended that there was no evidence to attribute knowledge to the petitioners about the whip and party directives.

Respondent’s Arguments

The Election Commission relied on the oral evidence as well as documentary evidence to arrive at a conclusion that the petitioners were aware of the decision of the Congress party. It was noted that the petitioners were aware of the election to the post of the President and Vice President. There was no evidence to prove that Padmanabhan was nominated by the Congress Party to contest as the Vice President.

Court’s Observation

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The court observed  the case of Lizy Valsalan v. Suja Salim and Another [2015 (3) KHC 968] that held that if the members act against the decision of the political party, they are liable to be disqualified for voluntarily giving up membership. The court also observed  the case of Nazeer v. Manikantan Nair [2015 (4) KLT 528] held as follows: When a person acts against the interest of his political party and supports the stand taken by the opposite group and that too when the interest of his political party is clear and unambiguous, the action would be deliberate which would amount to disloyalty. 

Court’s Decision

The Election Commission, based on the oral evidence and documentary evidence, came to the conclusion that the petitioners, by defying the decision of the Congress Committee on different occasions, committed an action warranting disqualification under both the limbs of Section 3(1) (a) of the Defection Act.

A Division Bench of this Court in Lizy Valsalan v. Suja Salim and Another [2015 (3) KHC 968] held that if the members act against the decision of the political party, they are liable to be disqualified for voluntarily giving up membership.  Further, the scope of interference under Article 226 is limited. Any decision on finding of facts based on the relevant facts and materials cannot be interfered invoking the power under Article 226. The writ petitions were dismissed.

Case: Nazeema v. The Kerala State Election Commission.

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Coram: Justice A. Muhamed Mastaque

Click here to view the original judgement


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