Sivaganga Shows Us How Hollow Has Become Indian Democracy

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Sivaganga representative in the Loksabha, P. Chidambaram has failed in his case against the election case filed against him in the Madras High Court. Yet he has remained the Home Minister of India and asserts that there are 111 election cases pending against elected MPs in Courts in the country and, hence, there is no necessity for him to resign.

His challenger Mr. Raja Kannappan of AIDMK claims that he had secured 3,34,348 votes as against Chidambaram’s 3,30,994. But by manipulation, the powerful central minister was declared elected by a margin of 3,354 votes. Among many other allegations found triable by the Court, one is: bribing of thousands of women voters belonging to self-help groups at the rate of Rs.500 each through his son Karti Chidambaram.

Chidambaram had tried to get the election petition quashed, first on technical ground, which the Court had turned down. Then he had filed a misc case seeking rejection of the election petition on the ground that it does not disclose any cause of action. This misc case is rejected too, with the observation that cause of action is convincingly disclosed.

The Court on June 7 has said, “A perusal of the various averments made in the election petition shows that sufficient material facts were made and it discloses cause of action for trial of the election petition. It also contains adequate statement of material facts on which the allegations of irregularities or illegalities in counting were founded … The contention that the election petition does not disclose any cause of action cannot be accepted.”

So, even before the final verdict comes on the election petition, it is established that Kannappan has adduced sufficient and strong material facts to justify Chidambaram’s trial for corrupt practices in election.

It is strange that instead of cooperating with the Court to close the case on proper hearing within the stipulated time, Chidambaram has played the dilatory tactics of filing misc cases one after one and stayed a MP and a Minister by stymieing the process of law, thereby denying the people of Sivaganga their legitimate right to be represented in the Loksabha without any stink of infection on democracy.

The shrewd fellows like Chidambaram are able to hijack democracy because of lack of exemplary punishment and because of absence of specific election courts.

Elsewhere in these pages we have, time and again, stressed upon creation of Election Courts in every state or Election Benches in every High Court and also in the Supreme Court with the only assignment of deciding election petitions.

From Chidambaram’s assertions it transpires that, like him, there are one hundred and eleven MPs, who are facing election cases, which means, in those 111 Loksabha constituencies, people are, because of delay in disposal of the cases, in dark about whether they have legal representation in the rampart of democracy.

Fortunately for R.P.Swain of my area, his petition has ended in his favor in both the Orissa High Court and the Supreme Court, a bit earlier; as a result of which, re-election has already been held in Athgarh_Tigiria and he has returned to the Assembly, whereby the people of my area have been able to have their legitimate representation in Orissa Assembly.

But the people of Sivaganga Loksabha Constituency are devoid of this opportunity as yet. So also, people of 111 Loksabha Constituencies in the country, of which Chidambaram has mentioned to pooh-pooh the Opposition demand for his resignation.

The fellows who manipulate elections also manipulate judicial systems to stay in illegal occupation of berths in Legislatures; because there is no specific Election Courts to decide the election cases within stipulated time.

Under subsection (6) of section 86 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 the High Courts are required to adjudicate upon election petitions continuously on “day to day” basis until their conclusion, whereas subsection (7) declares that “every election petition shall be tried as expeditiously as possible and endeavor shall be made to conclude the trial within six months from the date on which the election petition is presented to the High Court on trial.”

But normally as the High Courts are overloaded with cases of all natures, disposal of election cases, though essential for democracy, are in most cases, not even heard within the life time of a House constituted on the basis of the elections challenged.

This being a reality, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission had recommended for setting up of Special Election Tribunals to expedite timely disposal of election petitions.

But, as non-existence of such specific Tribunals/Courts are more suitable to shrewd fellows who occupy legislative berths illegally and become ministers, the above recommendation is never attended to.

Therefore, in these pages, we have been harping on about the necessity of creation of such Tribunals/Courts by Supreme Court through appropriate case laws.

In Chidambaram matter, howsoever belated it be, the Court has now removed the stymie he had cleverly put to its proceeding in the main case.

Instead of welcoming the decision and assuring to cooperate with the Court to conclude the case as quickly as possible by hearing the case “from day to day”, Chidambaram has started bragging about how his case is one of 111 such cases pending in the Courts!

Had he been any idiot in politics, the braggadocio could have been not such offensive. But he is the Home Minister of India. And, his conduct affects the country.

Will the Prime Minister wake up?

He is appointed and continues in the cabinet on the pleasure of the Prime Minister. So, it is incumbent upon the Prime Minister to say as to whether his Home Minister should resign following the rejection of his plea in the election case against him or continue to convert the case to a time-consuming instance of legal acrobatics till the life span of the present Loksabha passes away and the election case becomes infructuous.

Otherwise, this case shall show us, how hollow has become Indian democracy in the hands of Dr. Singh and his team.

Election 2009: Returned Candidate’s Plea Rejected in the High Court, But Far Away is Justice for the Rejected Candidate

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

In the 2009 election for Orissa Assembly, Returning Officers were used to reject the nomination papers of candidates that were seemingly disadvantageous to the ruling party.

In only these pages, this aspect is discussed in matter of Ranendra Pratap Swain in Athgarh as an instance.

Exposed only in, – no other media had touched this point – the ruling party, after defeat of its conspiracy in even the Supreme Court, in the Court caused reelection, had to make Swain its candidate again to save its face and to keep the Constituency under its clutch, as Swain was certainly to win.

North Bhubaneswar is another instance where the Returning Officer “improperly and illegally rejected” the nomination papers of promising candidate Gyanendra Kumar Tripathy as a result of which the ruling party candidate Bhagirathi Badajena could bag the seat.

Tripathy preferred an Election Petition (Election Petition No.8 of 2009) in the High Court of Orissa. Badajena adopted dilatory tactics by filing objection to its maintainability, which the Court registered as a Misc. Case (Misc. Case No.6 of 2010) and once the Misc. Case was registered, took several adjournments, though he was legally required to prove his points sans any delay. Had he not played the dilatory tactics, the Misc. Case as well as the Election Case could have been decided in 2010.

Badajena had coined his Misc. Case on false and baseless pleas; but as there were points of law, the Court could not instantly reject his objection and posted the case to hear him. he did not cooperate and continued to seek adjournments as a result of which so vast time had to elapse in deciding the Misc.Case.

Justice Indrajit Mohanty ultimately heard the Misc. Case on 12 March 2012 and has delivered his judgment on 18 April 2012.

He has rejected the pleas of Badajena (the returned candiade) in a brilliant analysis of all the points of law he had raised and the baseless allegation he had made in attempt to mislead the Court. As for example, absence of an affidavit in Form No. 25 was made a point of objection to Tripathy’s case, claiming that Section 81(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and Rule 94 of Election Rules make such affidavit in this particular Form an unavoidable must for maintenance of an Election Case. But this Form is a must only if the election dispute is raised on the ground of “corrupt practices” and not otherwise. “On a careful reading” (Para 13 of the judgment) of the election petition the Court found that “there is no specific allegation of “corrupt practice” made by the election petitioner. Justice Mohanty has clearly mentioned, “I am of the considered view that since the election petitioner has not made any allegation of corrupt practice in his election petition, there is no requirement for him to make any affidavit in Form No.25 of Election Rules, 1961”.

So, on basis of factuality and in analysis of points of laws such as on animo attestendi and “substantial compliance” of the requirement of Section 81(3) of the 1951 Act, Justice Mohanty has rejected Badajena’s questions on maintainability of the Election Despute raised by Tripathy.

So, the hindrance willfully created by the returned candidate to decision on the election dispute has been appropriately removed by the High Court of Orissa.

Justice for Tripathy should no more be delayed. The Court should now follow the precedence it has created in Athgarh case. Yet, as there is no specific election bench of the Court, we apprehend, justice for Tripathy is far away.

In this context, we again put our emphasis on the need of separate and specific Election Bench to give justice to election petitioners that are victims of the mischiefs played by the Returning Officers and other players that endanger Democracy.

In Athgarh Context, What was Expected of the Speaker and the Supreme Court?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Athgarh Constituency is not just one of the 147 constituencies of Orissa Assembly.In the context of Indian democracy, it has tremendous significance.

Indian democracy is not as strong we believe. Anybody can gain over a junior officer under threat or by bribe and can debar any sure-winning candidate, even a sitting Prime Minister from contesting the polls by tampering with his nomination papers kept in his custody under election laws. This had happened in Athgarh in 2009 general election. Both the top Courts – The Orissa High Court and the Supreme Court of India – have nullified the election; but the crux of the issue has not been solved. This is why Athgarh deserves specific attention.

In the general elections 2009, its sitting MLA Ranendra Pratap Swain of ruling BJD, seeking fresh mandate, was disallowed to contest by the Returning Officer(RO).

The reason was the RO’s observation that Swain had not submitted ink signed original documents of candidacy and election symbol issued by his party.

Orissa High Court, in deciding the resultant election petition preferred by Swan, held that the rejection of his nomination papers by the RO was blatantly wrong and hence nullified the election with direction for fresh poll in the constituency.

The dispute reached the Supreme Court where the High Court order has been endorsed.

As such the election in Athgarh constituency has been finally and irrevocably nullified.

On receiving the Supreme Court Judgement, the Speaker of Orissa Assembly has terminated the membership of Ramesh Raut, the beneficiary of the RO’s illegal orders and the occasion for India’s Election Commission has arisen to conduct a fresh election there.

But behind this catena of events, significance of Athgarh remains unread on the slates of the two most relevant bodies. They are the Speaker of Orissa Assembly and the Supreme Court of India. I will discuss this

Fault with the Speaker

Orissa’s Assembly Speaker has terminated the membership of Raut after receipt of the Supreme Court verdict. The SC has refused to intervene with the High Court Order and rejected the appeals seeking quashing thereof. This means, the Apex Court verdict has made the High Court order absolute and entirely binding. It would therefore be wrong to do anything that does not comply with the High Court order.

The High Court had nullified the orders of the RO rejecting Swain’s nomination and therefore, had declared the election null and void. This makes it clear that the 2009 election results in respect of Athgarh constituency were struck down and Raut’s existence as the elected representative from that constituency has been legally obliterated with effect from the very day of the election.

In view of this, the Orissa Assembly Speaker had no other way than terminating Raut’s membership with retrospective effect from the day of his oath taking as a member. But the Speaker has not done this. His entire participation in the Assembly stands obliterated with retrospective effect because a legally non-existent person can have no records of participation in the House. Besides, the entire amount of money spent from the exchequer towards his pay and perquisites must be recovered, because for a non-existent member the Assembly cannot spend any money.

The Speaker ought to understand this phenomenon. But the money already paid to Raut may not be recovered from him, as he has received the payments for performances before being unseated.

So, the loss caused to exchequer must be recovered diligently.

Legally looking into the matter, there should be no doubt that no drainage from the exchequer on his accounts is permissible. Hence, the exchequer must be compensated by recovery of the amount spent on Raut from the RO, because of whose wrong decision the money is misspent.

While terminating the membership of Raut, the Speaker should have thought of this and issued a ruling to this effect. But he has not done it.

It was expected of him that he should do it in interest of democracy.

What was expected of the Supreme Court?

In this context, the other august body – the Supreme Court of India – could have created a law to save democracy from the type of danger from dishonest bureaucratic design of the likes seen in Athgarh.

In these pages, when the case was pending before the Supreme Court, we had raised the issue and opined that the Athgarh instance should prompt the Apex Court to issue a mandamus, even though not sought for in the case, making provisions by way of the case law for making publication of final list of candidates legally dependent on time bound disposal of an appeal against the orders of the RO in cases of rejection of nomination papers, as otherwise democracy could be derailed by any mischief maker by gaining over the RO – a junior official – causing even Prime Ministerial candidates debarred from contesting the elections by tampering with nomination papers, as happened in Athgarh, kept in his custody.

It was expected of the Supreme Court to take into accounts the danger of the carte blanche given to a RO to reject any candidate, as the RO did in Athgarh, sans any possibility of immediate intervention by the Election Commission.

It is gainful to recall that Swain, immediately after illegal rejection of his papers, had moved the Orissa High Court for intervention. But the High Court had refused to intervene, as to it, the EC was the competent authority in this matter.

The EC did not buzz, because the powers in the matter of acceptance or rejection of nomination papers were delegated to the RO.

That the RO was blatantly wrong in his decision over Swain’s papers was determined by the same High Court in subsequent days on deciding the election dispute which has, on 9 December 2011, been established with finality by the Supreme Court verdict. But around three long and precious years have been lost for this.

Had a forum to intervene before publication of the final list of candidates by the RO, possibly prejudiced against the candidate, been available, the case that consumed these years of valuable litigant time and debarred the people of Athgarh from having appropriate representation, could have been credibly disposed off on or before 8 April 2009, the last date fixed for withdrawal of candidature there.

So, we were not wrong in expecting such a judicial law or mandate from the Supreme Court for creation of a forum to immediately review the RO’s order in case of rejection of nomination papers in the style Athgarh witnessed, and to save democracy from derailment by mischief makers or the Country’s enemies hand-in-glove with a dishonest or treacherous Returning Officer.

But it did not happen.

To us, the Supreme Court should pay serious attention to this suggestion, if someone staying in or around New Delhi someday files a Public Interest litigation on this issue, as the political government or political opposition in our country, unfortunately, are too self-seeking to foresee this danger to democracy.