EC should furnish clear reasons for disqualifying candidates: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court also said that the period of disqualification ordered by the EC should be proportionate to the default committed by the candidate, the top court ruled.Updated: Feb 15, 2020 14:37 IST
An order by the Election Commission (EC) disqualifying an elected candidate should be supported by strong and clear reasons since it interferes with the will of the people, the Supreme Court held on Friday.
Further, the period of disqualification ordered by the EC should be proportionate to the default committed by the candidate, the top court ruled.
A bench of justices AM Khanwilkar, Hemant Gupta and Dinesh Maheshwari set aside an order passed by Maharashtra state election commission which had disqualified a village panchayat member for five years on account of 15 days delay in furnishing election expenses.
“…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”, the order stated.
The petitioner, Laxmibai was elected as a member of Mugat gram panchayat in November 2015. The state election commission, in exercise of its powers under Section 14B of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act had mandated that the election expenses incurred should be furnished within 30 days from the date of filing of nomination.
The petitioner furnished details of the expenses 15 days after the prescribed time period and was served with a show cause notice by the state election commission seeking explanation for the delay. She submitted her explanation that the delay was on account of her ill-health.
The collector as a delegate of the state election commission passed an order on August 9, 2018 disqualifying the petitioner for a period of five years to be a member of gram panchayat. The sole reason given by the collector was that petitioner had not submitted election expenses within the time prescribed.
Laxmibai’s challenge to the collector’s order was dismissed by Additional Divisional Commissioner, Aurangabad and by the Bombay high court which led to the appeal in Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court sent the matter back to the collector for fresh consideration.
The court stated that the purity and transparency in election process does not give unbridled and arbitrary power to the election commission to pass any whimsical order without examining the nature of default.
Importantly, the court underscored that the period of disqualification has to be proportionate to the 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”, the judgment said.