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 orissamatters.com, – 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.

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Swain Returns to Assembly // NOW THE QUESTION IS: WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THE PERIOD UNDER NULLIFICATION?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Ranendra Pratap Swain, victim of BJD’s internecine leg-pulling in 2009 elections to Orissa Assembly won the re-election at Athgarh, which he could have also won at that time had his party not sabotaged him, using the Returning Officer in illegal rejection of his nomination papers.

BJD had spent, according to a source in that party, about a crore of Rupees against Swain in litigations up to the Supreme Court by engaging, off the records, costliest lawyers of the country in defense of Swain’s rival, Ramesh Raut.

Raut was working like a pageboy in BJD office before being clandestinely readied to file nomination papers against Swain, that had made him de facto candidate of that party after success of the scheme to keep Swain out of fray.

Where from he got the massive amount of money to defray the costliest lawyers’ charges? Possibilities are two: (1) the BJD that had coined the scheme to block Swain’s re-entry into the Assembly for reasons discussed earlier in these pages, had borne Raut’s litigation cost. (2) after being elected to the Assembly, Raut had amassed such massive amount of money that he had no difficulty in defraying the huge cost of litigation.

When there are peons and night watchmen that have become multimillionaires by exploiting the climate of corruption the Naveen Patnaik’s government has created in Orissa, it cannot be said that it was not possible for Raut to amass huge money after being a MLA in the same climate .

But which of the above two possibilities is the reality can be ascertained if official agencies detecting tax evasion are asked to investigate into Raut’s litigation cost.

Swain’s return that has exposed the foul play BJD had played at Athgarh craves investigations into the financial foul play enacted in the intervening period, which is yet kept shrouded under mystery as yet, though it smacks of secret income and tax evasion.

But as far as Orissa Assembly is concerned, the question that Swain’s return has raised is unique and urgent.

The Orissa High Court had stripped layer by layer the illegalities resorted to in rejection of Swain’s nomination papers and declared the election in Athgarh null and void. Raut had challenged the HC verdict in the Supreme Court, but failed. So, legally, election of 2009 in Athgarh was no election.

In view of this, Raut’s participation, if any, in the Assembly must stand obliterated with retrospective effect. Had the Court order does not allow Raut to have any life as a member of the Assembly as his election is declared null and void.

So, now, it is the minimum duty of the Speaker to delete from Assembly records the participation of Raut in its entirety. When he is legally not a member since the day of his election, his oath as a member of the House must also be deleted. Therefore, all the salaries and perquisites he has received as MLA must be must be calculated in terms of money and recovered from him with retrospective effect. The Assembly accounts section should immediately be asked to complete this calculation and communicate the the same to him demanding recovery thereof. If the Speaker prefers to waive such dues, he can do so maximum up to the day of the High Court order. The HC order had unseated him with retrospective effect. Had he resigned immediately, the salaries and other benefits he had drawn might have seemed justifies, as, on the strength of the election, he had participated in the Assembly businesses till that day. But by not resigning from membership and going instead to the Supreme Court, he had continue as a member subject to decision of the Supreme Court and drawn the salaries and perquisites commutable in terms of money at his own risk. So, from the day of the High Court order till the day of his termination, whatever he has received materially from the Assembly was undue receipt. The Speaker has no prerogative to waive the dues he has received unduly by pursuing the luxury of litigation in the Supreme Court.

So, besides deletion of every participation of Raut from the Assembly records, it is incumbent upon the Speaker to recover from Raut the money he has unduly drawn from the House and to declare Swain as the representative of the Assembly with retrospective effect from the 2009 elections, activating his membership only from the day of his oath taking for financial purpose.

Anything else would create wrong precedences in handling the period of nullification as the election of 2009 in Athgarh has been declared unchangeably null and void.

ATHGARH: RE-ELECTION ON THE ANVIL; YET FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES ARE STILL TO BE ADDRESSED

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The wrong the Election Commission of India had done to people of Athgarh by not intervening in illegal rejection of sitting member Ranendra Pratap Swain’s nomination papers by the Returning Officer in 2009 general election to Orissa Assembly has clamped a fresh election on the voters of the constituency, though the RO, for whose foul play the by-election is necessitated, is not yet punished.

Orissa High Court, on hearing of the case preferred by Swain, had declared the election of ruling party factotum Ramesh Raut null-and-void, which meant, Raut was to be unseated since the very day of his election. But, the secret agents of derailment of democracy, who in the ruling party had contrived the method of using the RO to keep Swain away from the Assembly as he was in habit of castigating the government on the floor of the House for misrule in various departments, did not allow the HC order to work and instead invested massive money in challenging the same in the Supreme Court. Ultimately they failed and therefore the by-election is now on the anvil. The EC will formally issue necessary notifications on Feb.22 and the voters will cast their votes on March 18, if no sudden change of scenario intervenes.

But the by-election is not the final solution to the issues at stake. If they are not solved, we shall have no hesitation in saying that the EC of India, the Supreme Court of India as well as the Speaker of Orissa Legislative Assembly are failing in their duties to democracy.

The Election Commission

As we have discussed in these pages, there is serious lacuna in our electoral system that allows any one who can gain over a RO to make anybody including a prime-ministerial candidate debarred from contesting by getting the officer reject his/her nomination papers on the day of finalizing the list of valid candidates, at a time, when he/she shall have no time to correct the defects, if any.

It had happened in Athgarh.

The RO had received Swain’s papers duly filed and kept them in his custody till the day of preparation of the list of valid candidates. At the time of scrutiny – the last act before preparation of the list of valid candidates – he suddenly declared that Swain’s party ticket was not original as required under the law though he had received the document in original and kept the same in his custody. Refusing to pay any heed to Swain, the RO had rejected his nomination, thereby debarring him from contesting the elections. And, the EC had refused to intervene as there was no scope to intervene.

The High Court had found the conduct of the RO erroneous and the Supreme Court also agreed with this as it rejected the appeal against the HC order.

But all these legal exercises were not necessary if the RO had not acted mischievously and arbitrarily and the EC not failed to undo the wrong order of the RO.

Therefore, we had suggested that EC should create an authority to instantly intervene in case of arbitrary rejection of nomination papers by the RO. Unless such an authority is created, an enemy nation, by gaining over a RO, can derail Indian democracy by debarring a possible Prime Minister from contesting. But the EC is failing in this regard. It should immediately create a layer over the RO to intervene and settle cases like that of Swain so as to avoid such electoral dislocations in future.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India has finally restored derailed democracy to its track at Athgarh by approving what the Orissa high Court had decided. But the fact that pinches is that the legal process of hearing and deciding the case has taken so much time that the people’s right to be represented through the candidate of their choice is going to be materialized only in March 2012, after long three years of the election. The delay could have been avoided to the maximum extent if both the Courts had exclusive benches to dispose of election cases, as nothing in a democracy is more clamant than settlement of election issues.

The Supreme Court has been pleased to form green benches to decide exclusively the environmental cases as expeditiously as possible. Similarly, exclusive benches to hear and decide election cases may be created, as, thereby only, finalization of election cases in utmost speed can be ensured, we had suggested. But election benches are yet to be formed.

The Speaker

On receipt of the Supreme Court verdict that approved Orissa High Court’s order declaring the Athgarh election null and void, the Speaker of Orissa Legislative Assembly has terminated Raut’s membership.

But the termination should have been done with retrospective effect.

With the Supreme Court order confirming the order of the High Court, the election of Raut being null and void, it is to be treated that Raut was not a member of the House for a day. Hence, all the salaries and allowances he has received from the Assembly as a member need be recovered from him. The Speaker has not passed any order to this effect. Non-recovery of money paid to him will mean non-nullification of his membership till termination by the Speaker, which would mean non-acceptance of the High Court order as fortified by the Supreme Court that has set the election null and void, which, in other words would also mean nullification of the orders of the Courts by the Speaker till termination of Raut’s membership. It would be totally illegal and the Speaker should not refuse to look at this point. But, it seems, the Speaker has failed to look at this.

In interest of democracy, these issues need urgent cogitation.