ELECTION PETITIONS IN INDIA

OVERVIEW

India is a democracy. Democracy is derived from the two words ‘demos’ which means people and ‘Kratos’ which means authority. Democracy precisely means a government where every individual has authority in rulemaking, either directly or indirectly. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution declared that our country is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, and republic. The representatives chosen by the people of the country themselves work for the citizens and thus help in establishing a free and open society. The process of choosing these representatives is called elections which implies choosing or making a decision. According to the Representation of People Act, 1951[1], elections are defined as a process of filling seats or seats in either the house of parliament or the house of the state legislature. This is done by taking the will of all the people through the means of voting. In Indian Constitution, the body election has been mentioned in Article 329(b). The supreme court defined this word and gave it a wider and more specific meaning by saying that this process culminates in a candidate being declared elected.

WHAT IS MEANT BY AN ELECTION PETITION?

An election petition is a way by which the citizens can challenge the parliamentary election results. The authority for election petitions is under the High Court according to Article 329(b) of the Indian Constitution which has been made as perfection 80-A of the Representation of the People Act. It is a process by which we can enquire about the validity of any election result ranging from the parliamentary elections to the local government body elections. This helps to maintain transparency in the system to sustain democracy in the country. 

GROUNDS ON WHICH AN ELECTION PETITION CAN BE FILED

The various grounds on which an election petition can be filed[2]. Some of them include a candidate not being qualified on the day of elections; the candidate has committed any kind of corrupt practice; the nomination of any of the candidates being rejected unlawfully or the result being affected by any kind of fraud or misrepresentation. This kind of petition can be filed within 45 days of the election results. If allegations come out to be true, the elections are declared null and void. 

ORIGINAL JURISDICTION FOR ANY ELECTION PETITION

It should be kept in mind that High Courts have the original jurisdiction over any election petition. The petition can be filed by any candidate or voter to any authorized officer of the High Court personally. The general fee for filing a petition is Rs. 2,000 but it can specifically vary according to the provisions of different High Courts. An election petition should contain a short statement of material facts which has been relied on by the petitioner; an affidavit containing the information about any kind of corrupt practice that has been alleged by the petitioner along with the names of the persons or the parties who are alleged to have conducted such practices and an annexure for the petition that has to be signed by the petitioner and later on has to be verified. This kind of petition has to be attached with an affidavit, the prescribed form of which is available online. Such a petitioner can also that he or she has won the elections alongside complaining that the meaning of the particular candidate he or she is filing the petition against, has practised any kind of fraud that has rendered the election results null and void. 

THINGS TO BE KEPT IN MIND BEFORE FILING AN ELECTION PETITION

To declare an election void and file an election petition, certain essentials need to be kept in mind. These are mentioned under section hundred of the Representation of People Act, 1951. Under this, the high court can declare any election of any particular candidate void, it is proved that on that particular day of the election the candidate was not qualified; that he or she has committed any corrupt practice; his or her nomination has been improperly accepted; that there has been a rejection of any vote or acceptance of any void vote and; or any provisions of the constitution or those mentioned under Representation of People Act has not been complied with. The word corrupt practices has been defined under section 123 of the RPA act, according to which corrupt practices include bribery, undue influence, use of force, coercion, any kind of appeal during elections to attract the votes on the ground of religion, race, caste, community, language, etc., using national symbols, national emblem or national flag during elections to affect the results in any way, releasing false statement consisting of moulded facts against any particular candidate which has affected his or her selection, updating the service of government servants, using false facts and statements regarding the expenditure of election campaigning and hiring vehicles which are prohibited under Section 25 and 29(1) of Representation of People Act.

SOME ELECTION PETITIONS IN INDIA: A LOOK INTO THE PAST

Some of the examples of the election petition that have been filed in the past include the infamous petition against Indira Gandhi for which she was disqualified for corrupt practices during elections and could not contest an election for six years[3]. Another example election petition against Chidambaram for conducting corrupt practices and manipulating votes.

CONCLUSION

An election petition is thus a powerful weapon that helps to sustain the democracy in our country by helping conduct free and fair elections. It is indeed the best source to determine the validity of elections ranging from parliamentary elections to the local government elections. The Preamble to the Indian Constitution marks India as being sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, and republic. Election Petitions help maintain the status of the country in this regard.

Author(s) Name: Navjeet Kaur (University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University)

References:

[1]The Representation of People Act, 1951, passed by the Parliament in accordance with Article 327 of the Constitution of India deals with the legislation of the conducting of elections in the country. For the first time, the RPA was enacted in the year 1950.

[2]Ravpratap, ‘Election Petition can only be filed by an elector or a candidate: Supreme Court’ (LegalServiceIndia.com)<https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-4197-election-petition-can-only-be-filed-by-an-elector-or-a-candidate-supreme-court.html>, accessed April 22, 2022

[3] Murali Krishnan, ‘Why Indira Gandhi’s election was set aside by the Allahabad High Court 46 years ago’, (Bar and Bench, June 12, 2021)

<https://www.barandbench.com/columns/why-indira-gandhi-election-set-aside-allahabad-high-court-46-years-ago> , accessed April 20, 2022