Election Petition: Everything You Need to Know

6 May 2024  Read 2504 Views

Do you remember when Indira Gandhi was held guilty of corrupt election practices and disqualified from contesting elections for 6 years? This is the most famous Allahabad High Court judgment of 1975, which cancels Indira Gandhi's 4-year-old election from the Rae Bareli constituency due to claimed corruption.

This all happened because Raj Narain boldly moved to challenge Indira Gandhi's election results through an Election Petition. So, what exactly is this election petition? When can someone file it? This blog will help you understand every aspect of the Election Petition. Let's get started!

What is an Election Petition? 

An election petition is a legal procedure for investigating the validity of election outcomes. It questions whether a candidate won the election fairly, whether it's for Parliament, a state assembly, or local government.

This petition aims to involve the courts to correct any claimed irregularities, malpractices, or violations of electoral laws during an election.

Where to file an Election Petition? 

Election petitions are submitted to the state High Court where the election took place. As a result, only the High Courts have the original jurisdiction to decide election petitions. Typically, this authority is carried out by a Single Judge of the High Court, with the Chief Justice assigning additional Judges as needed for this task.

Who can file an Election Petition? 

  • Candidates: Both the winning and the losing candidates can challenge the election.

  • Elector: A person registered to vote in the constituency where the election was held can file a petition.

  • Nominated Person: If the nomination is rejected and the nominated person believes that the rejection was illegal, they can file an election petition.

Grounds for filing an Election Petition 

According to Section 100 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, an election of a specific candidate can be declared void if the High Court opines that:

a) The candidate elected was either unqualified or disqualified from holding the seat at the time of their election.

b) An elected candidate, their election agent, or another individual, with the candidate's consent or the election agent's consent, committed a corrupt practice.

c) There was improper acceptance of a nomination.

d) By any refusal or rejection of a vote or the reception of any vote which is void.

e) There was non-compliance with the Constitution, Representation of People Act, or any related rules or orders.

f) Other grounds include the death of a candidate or a mistake in counting votes.

What are Corrupt Practices and Electoral Offences?

Under Section 123 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, the following are considered corrupt practices: 

1. Bribery: Any form of gift, promise, offer, or gratification by the candidate or their agent to voters or other candidates in the election process.

2. Undue Influence: Direct or indirect influence exerted by the candidate or their representative, including threats, attempts to sway voters or opponents, public policy declarations, or legal right exercises.

3. Use of Force/Coercion: Employing physical force or coercion tactics.

4. Religious/Caste-based Appeals: Encouraging voters to abstain from voting based on religion, race, caste, community, or language or promoting enmity/hatred between different citizen classes. If you don't know whether asking Votes in Name of Religion is 'Legal' or 'Not', read this.

5. Use of National Symbols: Exploiting national symbols, emblems, or flags to benefit the candidate or disadvantage others.

6. False Statements: Publishing untrue statements about another candidate's personal character or conduct or their candidacy, aiming to harm their election prospects.

7. Misuse of Vehicles: Utilizing or arranging for vehicles in contravention of the Representation of People Act, 1951.

8. False Statements on Election Expenditure: Making false declarations regarding election-related expenses.

9. Abetting Government Servants: Encouraging or attempting to involve government officials (e.g., gazetted officers, police, armed forces, revenue officers) for election-related advantages.

10. Booth Capturing: Illegally taking control of polling booths during elections.

Contents of Election Petition

A. Concise statement of the material facts on which the petitioner relies

B. Detailed information about any alleged corrupt practices, including the parties' names, dates, and locations of each practice, is presented as an affidavit.

C. The petitioner must sign and verify any attachments or additional documents to petition.

D. Under the prayer clause, a petitioner may claim that a particular candidate's election is void and that he/she has been duly elected. 

Procedure for Filing an Election Petition

  1. Prepare the petition: The petition must be drafted according to the rules of the High Court. It must contain the petitioner's and respondent's names, the grounds for the petition, and the relief sought.
  2. Security Deposit: The petitioner must deposit a security of ₹2,000 with the High Court.
  3. Limitation Period: The petition must be filed within 45 days from the date of the election.
  4. Notice to Other Party: The petition must be sent to the respondent within 10 days from the date of filing.
  5. Hearing: The Court will hear the petition after giving due notice to both parties.
  6. Order: The Court will pass an order either dismissing the petition or declaring the election void.

Communication of HC's Final Order Against Election Petition

After completing the trial of an election petition, the High Court must promptly inform the Election Commission of India and the Speaker of the House or Chairman of the State Legislature about its decision. The High Court also needs to send a verified copy of the decision to the Election Commission of India.

Withdrawal of Election Petitions

  • The withdrawal of an election petition can only happen with the permission (leave) of the election bench of the High Court.
  • Upon receiving such an application, the court must notify all other parties involved in the petition and publish a notice in the Official Gazette.

Appeal against an order of the High Court 

  • Any legal or factual matter arising from an order issued by a High Court can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
  • Every appeal shall be preferred within 30 days from the High Court's order date. The Supreme Court may entertain an appeal after the expiry of the 30 days period if it is satisfied that the appellant had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal within such period.
  • An order of the High Court dismissing an election petition is final, conclusive and cannot be appealed.
  • If the High Court declares the election void, a fresh election must be held within 6 months.

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Conclusion

In India, an Election Petition is a powerful legal tool used to challenge the validity of elections, ensuring fairness and transparency in the democratic process. In an Election Petition, the burden of proof lies on the petitioner. The High Court has the power to order the recounting of votes and can also award costs to either party.

Election petition allows candidates and qualified voters to seek legal remedies for irregularities, malpractices, or violations of electoral laws. 

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 59 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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