Any reform of electoral process have to be done via legislation; filing of electronic nominations in W.B. panchayat elections held not allowed: SC

“Any dispute in regard to the validity of the election has to be espoused by adopting a remedy which is known to law, namely through an election petition”

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar and Dr DY Chandrachud, JJ., addressing the challenge to the Calcutta High Court’s decision on issuing directions for the acceptance of nominations in the electronic form by the West Bengal State Election Commission, decided to set aside the impugned judgment and order of the High Court.

The present appeal consisted of the facts that the candidate who wished to contest the panchayat elections were not being allowed to collect and submit their nomination forms as a result of the violent actions of the supporters of the ruling party in the State. The relief that the respondents were pressing upon was that the State Election Commission must accept nominations already filed, in the electronic form.

The Supreme Court on observing the facts and contentions of the parties and on analyzing the whole scenario of circumstances in the present matter stated that the provision contained in the Panchayat Elections Act 1973 and Rules constitute a complete code in regard to the conduct of the election, including the matter of filing nominations. Neither the Panchayat Elections Act nor the Rules contemplate the filing of nominations in the electronic form and for any such reform, a legislative amendment has to be carried out.

Further, in the matter concerning the uncontested seats in the said elections, the Bench stated that the intervention of this Court is sought on the basis that free and fair elections are a part of the basic feature of the Constitution. While the Court was of the view that the validity of the elections must be tested in election petitions under Section 79(1) of the Act, however, the seriousness of the allegations and proceedings placed before the Court would necessitate exercising the power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. Accordingly, the Court extended a period of 30 days for filing nominations in regard to the uncontested seats. For the reasons mentioned hereinabove, the judgment and order of the Calcutta High Court impugned in the appeal was set aside. The appeal was disposed of in the terms above. [W.B. State Election Commission v. Communist Party of India (Marxist), 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1137, decided on 24-08-2018]

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