Laxmibai vs The Collector Nanded on 14 February, 2020


Supreme Court of India

Laxmibai vs The Collector Nanded on 14 February, 2020

Author: L. Nageswara Rao

Bench: L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta

                                                           REPORTABLE

                 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                   CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1622 OF 2020
         (ARISING OUT OF SLP (CIVIL) NO. 16837 OF 2019


LAXMIBAI                                                 .....APPELLANT(S)

                                     VERSUS

THE COLLECTOR, NANDED & ORS.
                                                       .....RESPONDENT(S)


                                 WITH


             CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 1623-1625 OF 2020
     (ARISING OUT OF SLP (CIVIL) NOS. 20814-20816 OF 2019)


                 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1626 OF 2020
         (ARISING OUT OF SLP (CIVIL) NO. 4438 OF 2020)
                   [DIARY NO. 40018 OF 2019]



                         JUDGMENT

HEMANT GUPTA, J.

Civil Appeal @ SLP(C) No. 16837 of 2019

1. Leave granted.

2. The challenge in the present appeal is to an order dated 10 th

December, 2018 passed by the learned Single Bench of the High

Court of Judicature at Bombay dismissing the writ petition filed by

the appellant against an order of disqualification under Section 14B

1
of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, 1959 1 on account of

non-submission of election expenses within the period prescribed.

3. The election of Gram Panchayat, Mugat, Taluk Mudkhed, District

Nanded were held on 1st November, 2015. The results were

declared on 4th November, 2015. The appellant was elected as a

Member of Village Panchayat. The appellant was required to

furnish election expenses within 30 days in the manner prescribed

by the State Election Commission in terms of Section 14B of the

1959 Act. The appellant submitted expenses with delay of 15

days. The appellant was served with a show cause notice on 3 rd

March, 2016 as to why she should not be disqualified on account of

failure to submit the election expenses. The appellant submitted

her explanation that due to ill-health there was a delay of 15 days

in furnishing of details of expenses and that delay may be

condoned.

4. The Collector as a delegate of the State Election Commission

passed an order dated 9th August, 2018 disqualifying the appellant

for a period of five years to be a member of Gram Panchayat only

for the reason that the appellant has not submitted election

expenses within time.

5. The appeal against such order was dismissed on 19 th November,

2018 by the Additional Divisional Commissioner, Aurangabad for

the reason that the medical certificate is not issued by the

Competent Authority. The said order was challenged before the

1 for short, ‘1959 Act’

2
Writ Court wherein the High Court held as under:

“5. The learned counsel for the petitioner has tendered
a copy of medical certificate on which petitioner had
relied upon. The same is taken on record and marked
“X” for identification. This document has no particulars
whatsoever, such as name, diagnosis, date and
reference number etc. There is nothing mentioned.
This certificate issued by a private hospital bears only a
stamp of the doctor. It is stated that the petitioner was
suffering from hypertension, diabetes and was advised
bed rest. This document, on the face of it, cannot be
relied upon. If the authorities have not accepted such a
document, there is no error in the view taken by them.”

6. Learned counsel for the appellant vehemently argued that the

appellant was advised bed rest on account of hypertension and

diabetes, which fact caused unintended delay of furnishing of

election expenses. It is also argued that the appellant is duly

elected member of Panchayat and that an order of disqualification

can be passed if the candidate fails to show any good reason or

justification for the failure to submit accounts. It is also submitted

that there is no finding that the accounts furnished, though with

delay of fifteen days, are not proper or not in accordance with

applicable rules or instructions. The order of disqualifying her for

five years, in fact, jeopardises her right to contest election until 8 th

August, 2023 (i.e. from the date of the order passed on 9 th August,

2018).

7. It is argued that since the appellant is a duly elected

representative of Village Mugat and has been elected in a

democratic process, the disqualification for a period of five years

without taking into consideration the extent of default and the

3
consequences of disqualification renders the order of

disqualification as wholly disproportionate to the deficiency alleged

against the appellant. It is argued that an order of disqualification

should have been passed without delay and not nearly after 3

years of the elections. It is further argued that disqualification for a

period of five years is the maximum period of disqualification

whereas in terms of sub-section (2) of Section 14B of the 1959 Act,

the disqualification can be for a period less than five years.

Therefore, the authority was expected to consider the nature and

extent of default and consequent period of disqualification, which

should be commensurate with the default found by such authority.

The relevant Section 14B of the 1959 Act reads thus:

“14B. Disqualification by State Election
Commission. –

(1) If the State Election Commission is satisfied that a
person, –

(a) has failed to lodge an account of election expenses
within the time and in the manner required by the State
Election Commission, and

(b) has no good reason or justification for such failure,

the State Election Commission may, by an order
published in the Official Gazette, declare him to be
disqualified and such person shall be disqualified for
being a member of panchayat or for contesting an
election for being a member for a period of five years
from the date of this order.

(2) The State Election Commission may, for reasons to
be recorded, remove any disqualification under sub-
section (1) or reduce the period of any such
disqualification.”

8. A bare perusal of Section 14B of the 1959 Act shows that the State

4
Election Commission is to be satisfied as to whether a person has

no good reason or justification for the failure to furnish account of

election expenses. Secondly, in terms of sub-section (2), for the

reasons to be recorded, the disqualification under sub-section (1)

can be removed or the period of disqualification can be reduced.

9. The Collector passed an order on 9 th August, 2018 not accepting

the explanation for the delayed submission of the election

expenses. In appeal, learned Additional Divisional Commissioner

found that the medical certificate is not issued by the Competent

Authority and the matter has been verified by the Collector. The

appellant has not submitted the election expenses within

stipulated time, therefore, there is no error in the order passed by

the Collector. The High Court in the writ petition found that the

medical certificate has no particulars whatsoever such as name,

diagnosis, date and reference number etc. The certificate is issued

by a private hospital and bears only a stamp of doctor. Such

document was not accepted as reasonable explanation for not

submitting the election expenses within time. We find that the

explanation in delayed submission of election expenses has not

been accepted. Therefore, we do not find any reason to take a

different view than the view affirmed by the High Court in the writ

petition filed by the appellant.

10. However, the question which arises is that whether delay of 15

days necessarily follows the disqualification for a period of five

years. Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the order

5
of disqualification was passed by the Collector approximately 3

years after the election and there were only two dates of hearing

for more than two years apart. Therefore, inordinate delay in

pronouncing the disqualification order on the part of the Collector

severely prejudices the appellant as the period of disqualification

starts from the date of the order. However, the learned counsel for

the respondents relies upon judgment of this Court reported as

Union of India & Ors. v. A.K. Pandey2 to contend that the

mandate of Section 14B of the 1959 Act is disqualification and the

word ‘may’ have to be read as ‘shall’.

11. We do not find any merit in the argument that Section 14B of the

1959 Act is mandatory. Sub-section (1) of Section 14B of the said

Act empowers the State Election Commission to pass an order of

disqualification of a candidate, if the candidate fails to lodge

account of election expenses for lack of good reason or without

any justification. Such satisfaction is required to be recorded by the

Election Commission. The disqualification for a period of five years

is not necessary consequence of merely not filing account of

election expenses. Still further, subsection (2) empowers the State

Election Commission for reasons to be recorded, remove any

disqualification under sub-section (1) or reduce the period of any

such disqualification. Since authority is vested with power to

reduce the period of disqualification, therefore, makes the

provision directory.

2 (2009) 10 SCC 552

6

12. This Court in A.K. Pandey held that the prohibitive or negative

words are ordinarily indicative of mandatory nature of the provision

although said fact alone is not conclusive. This Court held as

under:-

“ 15. The principle seems to be fairly well settled that
The Court has to examine carefully the purpose of such
provision and the consequences that may follow from
non-observance thereof. If the context does not show
nor demands otherwise, the text of a statutory
provision couched in a negative form ordinarily has to
be read in the form of command. When the word “shall”
is followed by prohibitive or negative words, the
legislative intention of making the provision absolute,
peremptory and imperative becomes loud and clear and
ordinarily has to be inferred as such. ……………….”

13. In the present case, there is no prohibitive or negative expressions

used in Section 14B of the 1959 Act, as it empowers the Election

Commission to pass a just order of disqualification. Such provision

cannot be treated to be mandatory period of five years in view of

plain language of the Statute.

14. It is urged by learned counsel for the appellant that the

disqualification is disproportionate to the default committed by

the appellant. In a judgment reported as D. Venkata Reddy v.

R. Sultan & Ors.3, it was held that the election is a politically

sacred public act, not of one person or of one official, but of the

collective will of the whole constituency. The challenge in the said

appeal was to an election on the allegation of corrupt practices.

This Court held that the valuable verdict of the people at the polls

must be given due respect and should not be disregarded on

vague, indefinite, frivolous or fanciful allegations. The onus lies

3 (1976) 2 SCC 455

7
heavily on the election petitioner to make out a strong case for

setting aside an election. The election results cannot be lightly

brushed aside in election disputes. At the same time, it is

necessary to protect the purity and sobriety of the elections by

ensuring that the candidates do not secure the valuable votes of

the people by undue influence, fraud, communal propaganda,

bribery or other corrupt practices as laid down in the Act. The

Court held as under:

“3. Mr P. Bassi Reddy learned Counsel for the appellant
has assailed before us the findings of the High Court on
Issues 7, 26 and 27 as these were the only issues which
affected the appellant. Mr B. Shiv Sankar, learned
Counsel for the contesting respondent has endeavoured
to support the judgment of the High Court by
submitting that the findings arrived at by the High Court
were based on a correct and proper appreciation of the
evidence and the facts and circumstances of the record.
In a democracy such as ours, the purity and sanctity of
elections, the sacrosanct and sacred nature of the
electoral process must be preserved and maintained.
The valuable verdict of the people at the polls must be
given due respect and candour and should not be
disregarded or set at naught on vague, indefinite,
frivolous or fanciful allegations or on evidence which is
of a shaky or prevaricating character. It is well settled
that the onus lies heavily on the election petitioner to
make out a strong case for setting aside an election. In
our country election is a fairly costly and expensive
venture and the Representation of the People Act has
provided sufficient safeguards to make the elections fair
and free. In these circumstances, therefore, election
results cannot be lightly brushed aside in election
disputes. At the same time it is necessary to protect the
purity and sobriety of the elections by ensuring that the
candidates do not secure the valuable votes of the
people by undue influence, fraud, communal
propaganda, bribery or other corrupt practices as laid
down in the Act.”

8

15. This Court in a judgment reported as State of Punjab v. Baldev

Singh4 held that issue of removal of an elected office bearer has

serious repercussion. It implicitly makes it imperative and

obligatory on the part of the authority to have strict adherence to

the statutory provisions. It was held that severer the punishment,

greater care has to be taken to see that all the safeguards provided

in a statute are scrupulously followed.

16. In Tarlochan Dev Sharma v. State of Punjab & Ors.5, this Court

has held that holding and enjoying an office, discharging related

duties is a valuable statutory right of not only the returned

candidate but also his constituency or electoral college. Therefore,

the procedure prescribed must be strictly adhered to and unless a

clear case is made out, there cannot be any justification for his

removal.

17. In Ravi Yashwant Bhoir v. District Collector, Raigad & Ors.6,

this Court held that an elected official cannot be permitted to be

removed unceremoniously without following the procedure

prescribed by law. Where the statutory provision has very serious

repercussions, it implicitly makes it imperative and obligatory on

the part of the authority to have strict adherence to the statutory

provisions. It was held as under:

“35. The elected official is accountable to its electorate
because he is being elected by a large number of
voters. His removal has serious repercussions as he is
removed from the post and declared disqualified to
contest the elections for a further stipulated period, but

4 (1999) 6 SCC 172
5 (2001) 6 SCC 260
6 (2012) 4 SCC 407

9
it also takes away the right of the people of his
constituency to be represented by him. Undoubtedly,
the right to hold such a post is statutory and no person
can claim any absolute or vested right to the post, but
he cannot be removed without strictly adhering to the
provisions provided by the legislature for his removal
(vide Jyoti Basu v. Debi Ghosal [(1982) 1 SCC 691 : AIR
1982 SC 983] , Mohan Lal Tripathi v. District Magistrate,
Rae Bareily
[(1992) 4 SCC 80 : AIR 1993 SC 2042]
and Ram Beti v. District Panchayat Raj Adhikari [(1998)
1 SCC 680 : AIR 1998 SC 1222] ).

36. In view of the above, the law on the issue stands
crystallised to the effect that an elected member can be
removed in exceptional circumstances giving strict
adherence to the statutory provisions and holding the
enquiry, meeting the requirement of principles of
natural justice and giving an incumbent an opportunity
to defend himself, for the reason that removal of an
elected person casts stigma upon him and takes away
his valuable statutory right. Not only the elected office-
bearer but his constituency/electoral college is also
deprived of representation by the person of their
choice.

37. A duly elected person is entitled to hold office for
the term for which he has been elected and he can be
removed only on a proved misconduct or any other
procedure established under law like “no confidence
motion”, etc. The elected official is accountable to its
electorate as he has been elected by a large number of
voters and it would have serious repercussions when he
is removed from the office and further declared
disqualified to contest the election for a further
stipulated period.”

18. The judgments relate to the procedure to be followed in election

petition and proof of allegation but such principles are to be

followed in the case of inflicting punishment of disqualification,

which has far serious implication almost similar to indulging in

corrupt practices in an election. The purity and transparency in

election process does not give unbridled and arbitrary power to the

10
Election Commission to pass any whimsical order without

examining the nature of default. The extent of period of

disqualification has to be in proportion to the default. The Election

Commission has to keep in mind that by such process, an election

of duly elected candidate representing collective will of the voters

of the constituency is being set at naught.

19. In a judgment reported as Chief Executive Officer, Krishna

District Co-op. Central Bank Ltd. v. K. Hanumantha Rao7, this

Court held that the limited power of judicial review to interfere with

the penalty is based on the doctrine of proportionality which is a

concept of judicial review. If the punishment is so disproportionate

that it shocks the judicial conscience, the court would interfere.

The relevant extract reads as under:

“7.2 Even otherwise, the aforesaid reason could not be
a valid reason for interfering with the punishment
imposed. It is trite that Courts, while exercising their
power of judicial review over such matters, do not sit as
the appellate authority. Decision qua the nature and
quantum is the prerogative of the disciplinary authority.
It is not the function of the High Court to decide the
same. It is only in exceptional circumstances, where it is
found that the punishment/penalty awarded by the
disciplinary authority/employer is wholly
disproportionate, that too to an extent that it shakes
the conscience of the Court, that the Court steps in and
interferes.

7.2.1 No doubt, the award of punishment, which is
grossly in excess to the allegations, cannot claim
immunity and remains open for interference under
limited scope for judicial review. This limited power of
judicial review to interfere with the penalty is based on
the doctrine of proportionality which is a well-

recognised concept of judicial review in our
jurisprudence. The punishment should appear to be so

7 (2017) 2 SCC 528

11
disproportionate that it shocks the judicial conscience.
[See State of Jharkhand v. Kamal Prasad, (2014) 7 SCC
223]. It would also be apt to extract the following
observations in this behalf from the judgment of this
Court in Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangthan v. J. Hussain,
(2013) 10 SCC 106: (SCC pp. 110-12, paras 8-10)

“8. The order of the appellate authority while
having a relook at the case would, obviously,
examine as to whether the punishment imposed
by the disciplinary authority is reasonable or
not. If the appellate authority is of the opinion
that the case warrants lesser penalty, it can
reduce the penalty so imposed by the
disciplinary authority. Such a power which vests
with the appellate authority departmentally is
ordinarily not available to the Court or a
tribunal. The Court while undertaking judicial
review of the matter is not supposed to
substitute its own opinion on reappraisal of
facts. (See UT of Dadra and Nagar
Haveli v. Gulabhia M. Lad
, (2010) 5 SCC 775). In
exercise of power of judicial review, however,
the Court can interfere with the punishment
imposed when it is found to be totally irrational
or is outrageous in defiance of logic. This limited
scope of judicial review is permissible and
interference is available only when the
punishment is shockingly disproportionate,
suggesting lack of good faith. Otherwise, merely
because in the opinion of the Court lesser
punishment would have been more appropriate,
cannot be a ground to interfere with the
discretion of the departmental authorities.

xx xx xx

10. An imprimatur to the aforesaid principle was
accorded by this Court as well in Ranjit
Thakur v. Union of India
, (1987) 4 SCC 611.

Speaking for the Court, Venkatachaliah, J. (as he
then was) emphasising that “all powers have
legal limits” invoked the aforesaid doctrine in
the following words : (SCC p. 620, para 25)

‘25. … The question of the choice and
quantum of punishment is within the
jurisdiction and discretion of the Court

12
Martial. But the sentence has to suit the
offence and the offender. It should not be
vindictive or unduly harsh. It should not
be so disproportionate to the offence as
to shock the conscience and amount in
itself to conclusive evidence of bias. The
doctrine of proportionality, as part of the
concept of judicial review, would ensure
that even on an aspect which is,
otherwise, within the exclusive province
of the Court Martial, if the decision of the
Court even as to sentence is an
outrageous defiance of logic, then the
sentence would not be immune from
correction. Irrationality and perversity are
recognised grounds of judicial review.”

20. The disqualification of a candidate for five years passed under

Section 14B of the 1959 Act leads to disqualification for future

election as well. Though, Section 14B of the 1959 Act empowers

the Commission to disqualify a candidate for a period not

exceeding five years from the date of the order, but to pass an

order of disqualification for five years, which may disqualify him to

contest the next elections as well requires to be supported by

cogent reasons and not merely on the fact of not furnishing of

election expenses. We find that the order of disqualification for a

period of five years is without taking into consideration the extent

of default committed by the appellant and that the will of people is

being interfered with in the wholly perfunctory way. We find that

such mechanical exercise of power without any adequate reasons,

though required to be recorded, renders the order of

disqualification for a period of five years as illegal and untenable.

It is abdication of power which is coupled with a duty to impose

13
just period of disqualification. Therefore, though the appellant

could be disqualified for a period upto five years, but we find that

such period of disqualification must be supported by tangible

reasons lest it would border on being disproportionate.

21. Consequently, the order dated 9th August 2018 passed by the

Collector and subsequent orders in appeal and in the writ petition

are set aside in part to the extent of prescribing disqualification for

a period of five years and the matter is remitted to the Collector to

take into consideration the period of delay/default, the purport for

which the election expenses are sought to be furnished and that

the order of disqualification operates from the date of the order

including delay in passing the order of disqualification. The

Collector shall pass the order afresh in respect of period of

disqualification in accordance with law preferably within a period of

one month from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment. The

period of disqualification, if any, will be operative from the date of

the order passed earlier by the Collector on 9 th August, 2018 and

any elections held as a consequence of the order of disqualification

will abide the final order to be passed by the Collector.

Civil Appeals @ SLP(C) Nos. 20814-20816 of 2019

AND

Civil Appeal @ SLP(C) … Diary No. 40018 of 2019

22. Delay condoned. Leave granted.

23. The present appeals arise out of a common order dated 24 th July,

2019 passed by the learned Single Bench of the High Court of

14
Judicature at Bombay whereby the writ petition filed by the

appellant Gulabrao Ananda Patil was dismissed and writ petitions

filed by Ritesh Suresh Patil and Pradip Nimba Patil were partly

allowed.

24. The elections of Panchayat Samiti, Village Mukti, Taluk and District

Dhule, Maharashtra were held on 1 st December, 2013. The

appellant Gulabrao Ananda Patil contested the said elections. The

results were declared on 2nd December, 2013 and the appellant

Gulabrao Ananda Patil was not elected. The appellant was required

to furnish election expenses within 30 days in the manner

prescribed by the State Election Commission in terms of Section

15B of the Maharashtra Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samitis Act,

19618. Since the appellant did not submit the account of election

expenses within stipulated period, he was served with a show-

cause notice on 21st July, 2014 to explain as to why he should not

be disqualified for next five years on account of his failure to

submit the account of election expenses. The appellant did not

submit any reply within the prescribed time i.e. within seven days

but on 28th August, 2014, he submitted his explanation that due to

ill-health, he could not furnish the details of expenses. The

Collector vide order dated 3rd November, 2014 disqualified the

appellant for contesting elections for a period of five years. An

appeal filed by the appellant was dismissed by the Divisional

Commissioner on 18th December, 2017.

25. Meanwhile, the elections of Gram Panchayat, Village Mukti were
8 for short, ‘1961 Act’

15
notified. The appellant submitted his nomination on 21 st

September, 2017 for the post of Sarpanch. Such nomination of the

appellant was objected by Pradip Nimba Patil (Petitioner in W.P. No.

11929 of 2017 before the High Court) but was rejected by the

Returning Officer on 25th September, 2017. The appellant was

declared elected to the post of Sarpanch. The Returning Officer

held that the disqualification is applicable only for the elections of

Zilla Parishads and Panchayat Samiti and not for the elections of

Gram Panchayat. The order of the Returning Officer was

challenged before the High Court in Writ Petition No. 11929 of 2017

and in Writ Petition No. 13711 of 2017.

26. Writ Petition No. 3846 of 2018 was filed by the appellant Gulabrao

Ananda Patil challenging the order dated 18 th December, 2017

passed by the Divisional Commissioner confirming the order dated

3rd November, 2014 passed by the Collector to disqualify him for a

period of five years on account of his failure to submit account of

election expenses within the stipulated period. Writ Petition No.

11929 of 2017 was filed by Pradip Nimba Patil challenging the

order dated 25th September, 2017 passed by the Returning Officer

whereby the objection raised by him to the nomination of appellant

Gulabrao Ananda Patil to the post of Sarpanch was rejected. Writ

Petition No. 13711 of 2017 was filed by Ritesh Suresh Patil

(appellant herein in Civil Appeal arising out of Special Leave

Petition Diary No. 40018 of 2019) with a prayer to set aside the

election of appellant Gulabrao Ananda Patil, who has been declared

16
elected as Sarpanch of Village Mukti, on the ground that on the

date of his nomination, he was disqualified from contesting the

said election. A further prayer is also made by appellant Ritesh

Suresh Patil to declare him elected as Sarpanch of Gram

Panchayat, Village Mukti by setting aside the election of Gulabrao

Ananda Patil.

27. The High Court dismissed the writ petition filed by Gulabrao

Ananda Patil. The writ petitions filed by Pradip Nimba Patil and

Ritesh Suresh Patil were partly allowed by setting aside the order

passed by the Returning Officer rejecting the objections raised by

him while the relief claimed in the writ petition filed by Ritesh

Suresh Patil to declare him elected as Sarpanch was not granted.

Appellants Gulabrao Ananda Patil and Ritesh Suresh Patil are in

appeal before this Court.

28. The argument of the appellant before the High Court was that the

order dated 3rd November, 2014 has been passed without

considering the explanation of the appellant regarding his ill-health

and that the order has been passed mechanically. The High Court

found that admittedly the appellant Gulabrao Ananda Patil has not

submitted any account of election expenses incurred on the date of

voting, therefore, there is no error in the order passed by the

Collector disqualifying the appellant from contesting election for

next five years. Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that

disqualification of the appellant was on account of non-furnishing

of expenses under the 1961 Act. The disqualification under

17
Section 15B of the 1961 Act was to contest an election for being a

Councillor. Such disqualification is not applicable to contest an

election in respect of another local body governed by separate

statute, the 1959 Act.

29. It is further submitted that the order passed by the Returning

Officer confers a cause to an aggrieved person to file an election

petition under Section 15 of the 1959 Act. Such order of

acceptance of nomination papers could not be challenged in a writ

petition in view of Article 243-O of the Constitution of India and in

view of alternate efficacious remedy provided under the 1959 Act.

30. It is also submitted that the disqualification for a period of five

years is wholly disproportionate to the default committed by the

appellant of not filing the election expenses incurred on the date of

election.

31. Similar argument has been examined in an appeal preferred by

Laxmi Bai. For the reasons recorded therein, we find that the

order of disqualification for a period of five years is illegal and

untenable and cannot be sustained.

32. Learned counsel for the appellant referred to a judgment reported

as Commissioner of Central Excise, New Delhi v. Hari Chand

Shri Gopal & Ors.9 to contend that the appellant has substantially

complied with the provisions of submitting election expenses,

therefore, the order of disqualification is not tenable. We do not

find any merit in the said argument. The election expenses are

sought to maintain purity of election and to bring transparency in
9 (2011) 1 SCC 236

18
the process. The voters must know everything about his candidate

during and post elections. Therefore, such judgment which deals

with excise duty is not applicable to the facts of the present case.

33. The provisions of Section 15B of the 1961 Act are similar to the

provisions of Section 14B of the 1959 Act. Section 15B of the 1961

Act reads as under:

“15B. Disqualification by State Election
Commission: –

(1) If the State Election Commission is satisfied that a
person,-

(a) has failed to lodge an account of election expenses
within the time and in the manner required by the State
Election Commission, and

(b) has no good reason or justification for such failure,

the State Election Commission may, by an order
published in the Official Gazette, declare him to be
disqualified and such person shall be disqualified for
being a Councillor or for contesting an election for being
a Councillor for a period of five years from the date of
this order.

(2) The State Election Commission may, for reasons to
be recorded, remove any disqualification under sub-
section (1) or reduce the period of any such
disqualification.”

34. The appellant was elected as a candidate in respect of election to

Gram Panchayat conducted in terms of 1959 Act. Section 13 of the

said Act as it existed prior to substitution by Maharashtra Act 54 of

2018, contemplates disqualifications to contest for election. The

relevant provision reads as under:

“13. Persons qualified to vote and be elected
(1) Every person who is not less than 21 years of age on

19
the last date fixed for making nomination for every
general election or bye-election and whose name is in
the list of voters shall, unless disqualified under this Act,
or any other law for the time being in force, be qualified
to vote at the election of a member for the ward to which
such list pertains.

(2) Every person whose name is in the list of voters shall,
unless disqualified under this Act or under any other law
for the time being in force, be qualified to be elected for
any ward of the village. No person whose name is not
entered in the list of voters for such village shall be
qualified to be elected for any ward of the village…..”

35. The High Court followed its earlier judgment reported as Gokul

Chandanmal Sangvi v. State of Maharashtra and Others10,

holding that the disqualification incurred by a candidate will entail

disqualification to contest an election under 1959 Act in terms of

Section 13 of the said Act. Since the appellant has been

disqualified under the provisions of 1961 Act, therefore, such

disqualification is a disqualification for the purposes of the

elections under 1959 Act as well. Therefore, the appellant could

not contest elections for Gram Panchayat having been disqualified

for a period of five years under the 1961 Act. We see no reason to

disagree with the findings of the High Court in this respect.

36. The High Court in Gokul Chandanmal Sangvi, while considering

argument that the remedy of an aggrieved person accepting

nomination papers of the present appellant is by way of election

petition, held that if there were illegalities in the election, it would

have effect of vitiating the election. The High Court held as under:

“10. ……..There is a reference in this case about the

10 2018 (4) Mh LJ 911

20
judgment in N. P. Punnuswami vs The Returning Officer
AIR 1952 SC 64. In Punnuswami’s case, the appellant’s
nomination was rejected and he challenged the same
by a writ of certiorari to quash the order and include his
name. The High Court dismissed the petition on the
ground that it had no jurisdiction to interfere with the
order of the Returning Officer. The Apex Court held that,
the only remedy provided was by election petition to be
presented after the election was over and even the
High Court had no jurisdiction under Article 226 of the
Constitution of India during the intermediate period.
However, if there were illegalities in the election, it
would have effect of vitiating the election.

*** *** ***

17. We find that, the Returning Officer has taken a
stand totally contradictory to the provisions of law while
upholding the nomination of respondent No. 5. Since
respondent No. 5 was disqualified but was allowed to
contest the election, the whole election stands
vitiated.”

37. In the judgment reported as N. P. Punnuswami v. The

Returning Officer11 it was held by this Court that the only

remedy provided was by election petition to be presented after

the election was over and even the High Court had no jurisdiction

under Article 226 of the Constitution of India during the

intermediate period. It was held that the ground of rejection of

nomination paper cannot be urged in any other manner, at any

other stage and before any other court. It further held that under

the election law, the rejection of a nomination paper can be used

as a ground to call election in question before the Authority

prescribed by law in terms of Article 329 of the Constitution of

India. This Court arrived at the following conclusions:

11 AIR 1952 SC 64

21
“(1) Having regard to the important functions which the
legislatures have to perform in democratic countries, it
has always been recognized to be a matter of first
importance that elections should be concluded as early
as possible according to time schedule and all
controversial matters and all disputes arising out of
elections should be postponed till after the elections are
over, so that the election proceedings may not be
unduly retarded or protracted.

(2) In conformity with this principle, the scheme the
election law in this country as well as in England is that
no significance should be attached to anything which
does not affect the “election”; and if any irregularities
are commit ted while it is in progress and they belong
to the category or class which, under the law by which
elections are governed, would have the effect of
vitiating the’ ‘election” and enable the person affected
to call it in question, they should be brought up before a
special tribunal by means of an election petition and
not be made the subject of a dispute before any court
while the election is in progress.”

38. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment inserted Part IX in the

Constitution of India. Article 243-O of the Constitution of India as

inserted provides that no election to any panchayats shall be

called in question except by an election petition presented to such

authority and in such manner as provided for by or under any law

made under the legislature of the State. Article 243-O of the

Constitution of India reads as under:

“243-O. Bar to interference by courts in electoral
matters.- Notwithstanding anything in this
Constitution-

(a) the validity of any law relating to the
delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats
to such constituencies made or purporting to be made
under article 243-K, shall not be called in question in
any court;

22

(b) no election to any Panchayats shall be called in
question except by an election petition presented to
such authority and in such manner as is provided for by
or under any Law made by the Legislature of a State.”

39. In terms of such constitutional provisions, Section 15A was

inserted by Maharashtra Act No. 21 of 1994. The dispute in the

present appeals does not pertain to election to either House of the

Parliament but to a local body. The constitutional bar is contained

in Article 243-O of the Constitution of India in furtherance of which

Section 15A was inserted in the year 1994. Section 15A of the

1959 Act reads thus:-

“15A. Bar to interference by Court in electoral
matters.-No election to any Panchayat shall be called in
question except in accordance with the provisions of
Section 15; and no court other than the Judge referred to
in that Section shall entertain any dispute in respect of
such election.”

40. A Constitution Bench in Mohinder Singh Gill & Anr. v. The

Chief Election Commissioner, New Delhi & Ors. 12 examined

the N.P. Ponnuswami’s case and held that Article 329 of the

Constitution of India starts with a non obstante clause that

notwithstanding contained in this Constitution, no election to

either house shall be called in question except by an election

petition. Therefore, Article 226 of the Constitution of India stands

pushed out where the dispute takes the form of calling in question

an election, except in special situations pointed out but left

12 (1978) 1 SCC 405

23
unexplored in Ponnuswami. It was held that there is a remedy for

every wrong done during the election in progress although it is

postponed to the post-election stage. The Election Tribunal has

powers to give relief to an aggrieved candidate.

41. In respect of elections to a local body, this Court in a judgment

reported as S. T. Muthusami v. K. Natarajan & Ors.13,

approved Full Court Judgment of Madhya Pradesh High Court

reported as Malam Singh v. The Collector, Sehore14, wherein it

was held that there is no constitutional bar to the exercise of writ

jurisdiction in respect of election to local bodies such as

Municipalities, Panchayat and the like but it is desirable to resolve

the election dispute speedily through the machinery of election

petitions. In Malam Singh’s case, the Madhya Pradesh High

Court held as under:

“7. The Act, therefore, furnishes a complete remedy for
the particular breach complained of. The Legislature
prescribed the manner in which and the stage at which
the rejection of a nomination paper can be raised as a
ground to call the election in question. We think it fol-
lows by necessary implication from the language of Sec-
tion 357(1) that this ground cannot be urged in other
manner, at any other stage and before any other Court.
If the grounds on which an election can be called in
question could be raised at an earlier stage and errors,
if any, are rectified, there will be no meaning in enact-
ing a provision like Section 357(1) and in setting up an
election tribunal. The question of improper rejection of
a nomination paper has, therefore, to be brought up be-

13 (1988) 1 SCC 572
14 AIR 1971 MP 195

24
fore the election tribunal by means of an election peti-
tion after the conclusion of the election.

*** *** ***

17. Lastly, their Lordships stated that the law of election
in this country does not contemplate that there should
be two attacks on matters connected with election
proceedings, in the following passage:—

“In my opinion, to affirm such a position would
be contrary to the scheme of ……… the
Representation of the People Act, which as I
shall point out later, seems to lie that any
matter which has the effect of vitiating an
election should be brought up only at the
appropriate stage in an appropriate manner
before a special tribunal and should not be
brought up at an intermediate stage before any
Court. It seems to me that under the election
law, the only significance, Which the rejection of
a nomination paper has, consists in the fact that
it can be used as a ground to call the election in
question.”

18. There is no constitutional bar to the exercise of
writ jurisdiction in respect of elections to Local Bodies
such as, Municipalities, Panchayats and the like.
However, as it is desirable to resolve election disputes
speedily through the machinery of election petitions,
the Court in the exercise of its discretion should always
decline to invoke its writ jurisdiction in an election
dispute, if the alternative remedy of an election petition
is available. So, their Lordships of the Supreme Court
in Sangram Singh v. Election Tribunal, Kotah, AIR 1955
SC 425, stated:—

“…… though no legislature can impose
limitations on these constitutional owners it is a
sound exercise of discretion to bear in mind the
policy of the legislature to have disputes about
these special rights decided as speedily as may
be. Therefore, writ petitions should not be
lightly entertained in this class of case.”

25

42. This Court again examined the question in respect of raising a

dispute relating to an election of a local body before the High

Court by way of a writ petition under Article 226 of the

Constitution of India in a judgment reported as Harnek Singh v.

Charanjit Singh & Ors.15. It was held as under:

“15. Prayers (b) and (c) aforementioned, evidently,
could not have been granted in favour of the petitioner
by the High Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Ar-
ticle 226 of the Constitution of India. It is true that the
High Court exercises a plenary jurisdiction under Article
226
of the Constitution of India. Such jurisdiction being
discretionary in nature may not be exercised inter alia
keeping in view of the fact that an efficacious alterna-
tive remedy is available therefor. (See Mrs. Sanjana M.
Wig Vs. Hindustan Petro Corporation Ltd., 2 (2005) 8
SCC 242: 005 (7) SCALE 290.)

16. Article 243-O of the Constitution of India man-
dates that all election disputes must be determined
only by way of an election petition. This by itself may
not per se bar judicial review which is the basic struc-
ture of the Constitution, but ordinarily such jurisdiction
would not be exercised. There may be some cases
where a writ petition would be entertained but in this
case we are not concerned with the said question.

17. In C. Subrahmanyam Vs. K. Ramanjaneyullu
and Others : (1998) 8 SCC 703, a three-Judge Bench of
this Court observed that a writ petition should not be
entertained when the main question which fell for deci-
sion before the High Court was non-compliance of the
provisions of the Act which was one of the grounds for
an election petition in terms Rule 12 framed under the
Act.”

43. Section 10A of the 1959 Act and Section 9A of the 1961 Act read

with Articles 243-K and 243-O, are pari materia with Article 324 of

15 (2005) 8 SCC 383

26
the Constitution of India. In view of the judgments referred, we

find that the remedy of an aggrieved person accepting or rejecting

nomination of a candidate is by way of an election petition in view

of the bar created under Section 15A of the 1959 Act. The said

Act is a complete code providing machinery for redressal to the

grievances pertaining to election as contained in Section 15 of the

1959 Act. The High Court though exercises extraordinary

jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India but such

jurisdiction is discretionary in nature and may not be exercised in

view of the fact that an efficacious alternative remedy is available

and more so exercise restraint in terms of Article 243-O of the

Constitution of India. Once alternate machinery is provided by the

statute, the recourse to writ jurisdiction is not an appropriate

remedy. It is a prudent discretion to be exercised by the High

Court not to interfere in the election matters, especially after

declaration of the results of the elections but relegate the parties

to the remedy contemplated by the statute. In view of the above,

the writ petition should not have been entertained by the High

Court. However, the order of the High Court that the appellant

has not furnished the election expenses incurred on the date of

election does not warrant any interference.

44. Consequently, the order passed by the Collector on 3 rd November,

2014 and subsequent orders in appeal and in the writ petition are

set aside in part to the extent of prescribing disqualification for a

period of five years and the matter is remitted to the Collector to

27
take into consideration the nature of default, the purport for which

the election expenses are sought to be furnished and that the

order of disqualification operates from the date of the order

including delay in passing the order of disqualification. The

Collector shall pass the order afresh in respect of period of

disqualification in accordance with law preferably within a period

of one month from the date of receipt of copy of this judgment.

The period of disqualification, if any, will be operative from the

date of the order passed earlier by the Collector on 3 rd November,

2014 and that any elections held as a consequence of the order of

disqualification will abide the final order to be passed by the

Collector.

45. In view of the above, Civil Appeals arising out of Special Leave

Petitions (Civil) Nos. 16837 of 2019 and 20814-20816 of 2019 are

allowed in the abovementioned terms; whereas Civil Appeal arising

out of Special Leave Petition (Diary No. 40018 of 2019) is

dismissed.

………………………………………J.

(A.M. KHANWILKAR)

………………………………………J.

(HEMANT GUPTA)

28
………………………………………J.

(DINESH MAHESHWARI)

NEW DELHI;

February 14, 2020.

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