Courts getting into rejection of nomination papers by election commission amounts to stalling of election process: Karnataka HC

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Justice MI Arun of Karnataka High Court (Kalburgi Bench) has held that the act of courts getting into the rejection of nomination papers by election commission under writ jurisdiction amounts to protraction of proceedings and stalling the elections process.

The court has held so in a plea filed by one Rashida Begum, a candidate of Indian National Congress (INC) at Maski Town Municipal Council. She had filed a writ petition challenging the rejection of her nomination papers by the Returning Officer on the ground that the signature of the State President does not tally. She also contended that while the signatures tally, her nomination has been rejected without giving her an opportunity to be heard.

The State Election Commission through the Deputy Election Commissioner contended that  her nomination was rejected in accordance with law and that they tried to contact Rashida, however she did not respond to the queries raised by them and hence had to reject her nomination papers. It was further contended by them that superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls lies with the State Election Commission as per Article 243(ZG) of the Constitution of India and that there is a specific bar on interference of courts in electoral matters.

The counsel for Rashida Begum contended that there is a bar on courts interfering with electoral matters only if it amounts to protracting or stalling of the election proceedings. It was further contended that High Courts can exercise their jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution if it intends to secure justice to the parties concerned and is done in order to secure the conduct of elections in a democratic manner.

The court on hearing the parties noted that the High Courts are superior courts of record and that they have unlimited jurisdiction including that to determine their own jurisdiction. The court further held that the jurisdiction of the court is carved in the sovereign power of the State, the court further observed that the judicial powers are articulated in the constitution to be exercised by the court. The court observed that the courts can intervene where the statutes are silent however in the matters such as election the first importance need to be given to the conclusion of election as early as possible as per the time schedule. The court further noted that the controversial matters and disputes arising out of the election should be postponed till the elections are over, this is done so that the elections do not get protracted.

The court in conclusion held that the it cannot based on the documents produced come to a conclusion as to whether the signatures tally or not. Similarly based only on the pleadings, it cannot be concluded whether a reasonable opportunity of being heard was provided by the returning officer and that such matters can only be decided in an election petition.

The court further held that as the calendar of events have already been announced and the dates for scrutiny and withdrawal of nominations is over, any interference at this stage by way go remanding the matter back to the returning officer will amount to protraction of proceedings. Thus it dismissed the writ petition.

It is to be noted that while the writ petition was decided on 22nd December, the elections are to be held on 27th December 2021.

Cause title: Rashida Begum Vs Karnataka State Election Commission