|The matter has been referred to Chief Justice for appropriate orders|
CHENNAI: A Division Bench of the Madras High Court has passed a split verdict on a batch of petitions filed by major political parties, seeking cancellation of elections to all 155 wards in Chennai Corporation in view of large-scale rigging and booth-capturing on October 13.
While Judge S.J. Mukhopadhaya ruled that there was a constitutional bar on entertaining public interest litigation petitions in election-related matters, Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla ordered fresh elections to 99 wards and directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to recall election certificates issued to candidates elected from these wards.
F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla
The matter has been referred to Chief Justice A.P. Shah for appropriate orders.
First, Mr. Justice Mukhopadhaya said that merely on the basis of an allegation made by one or the other, the SEC could not stop the total process of election. "Only when the authority [concerned] arrives at a substantial satisfaction could action be taken to cancel the poll or to order repoll," he said, adding that the failure of the SEC to exercise its powers could not be a ground to declare the total election as ab initio void.
Explaining the bar to interfering with the poll process, as stipulated in Article 243ZG of the Constitution and Supreme Court orders, he said after the process was over such a power could be exercised only under Rule 118 to 126 of the Tamil Nadu Town Panchayats, Third Grade Municipalities, Municipalities and Corporation (Election) Rules 2006.
Holding that it was not feasible for the court to determine whether there was any free and fair election, he said the court was unable to give any definite finding on merits. He then dismissed the petitions.
However, Mr. Justice Kalifulla said a separate order was necessitated, as he was not in a position to agree with the order passed by Mr. Justice Mukhopadhaya.
Allowing the petitions, he said, "In a democratic set-up, holding of elections in a free and fair manner assumes great importance."
He said the apex court too had cautioned that successful candidates, who had resorted to foul methods, should not be allowed to reap the benefits.
Convinced that it was an "extreme and extraordinary situation" warranting an extraordinary remedy, he said in view of the magnitude of the situation, it would be wholly inappropriate if fresh elections were not ordered to a majority of the wards.
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Date:13/01/2007 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2007/01/13/stories/2007011308290100.htm