Election manifesto of political parties cannot form basis for alleging “corrupt practice” as defined in Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 while challenging election of elected candidates, ruled the Bombay High Court.
While dismissing the petitions, the court has also imposed cost of Rs 10,00 each on the petitioners which is to be given to the MPs.
“The appeal made in the manifesto by itself cannot be equated with an appeal seeking votes by the returned candidate on the ground of his religion,” observed Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari, on Tuesday, while dismissing four separate election petitions challenging elections of four city Members of Parliament (MP).
The judge slapped cost of Rs 10,000 each on the petitioners.
Four city voters — Samsher Singh, Anil Gachake, Tunal Wagh and Rakesh Parmar — had filed election petition challenging the elections of Congress MPs Gurudas Kamath, Eknath Gaikwad, Priya Dutt and Milling Deora respectively.
They had said that Indian National Congress’ manifesto for last years general elections was “highly communal and obstructive of unity and integrity of Indian people, dividing them into majority and minority communities”.
They added that the MPs had contested Parliamentary elections on the basis of the manifesto, which was communally biased towards minority communities, especially Muslims. They said it amounted to seeking votes on the basis of religion and so amounted to “corrupt practice” as defined in section 123 (3) of the Representation of Peoples Act.
The MPs had taken preliminary objections to the petitions. Their counsel Ashutosh Kumbhkoni had contended section 123 (3) required indulgence on part of the returned candidate or his agents in appealing for votes on the basis of the candidates caste, creed or religion. Kumbhkoni had sought dismissal of the petitions.
Accepting Kumbhkoni’s arguments, Justice Dharmadhikari said: “The returned candidate may have contested election as INC candidate on the basis of the programme and policies set out in the party manifesto.”
“However, mere use of the manifesto by him for seeking votes without the other ingredients of section 123(3) cannot be termed as corrupt practice,” court further observed.