HC airs concern at ROs’ different parameters

Acceptance and scrutiny of nominations

The Kerala High Court on Monday expressed concern over adoption of different parameters by returning officers (ROs) for the Assembly polls in different constituencies in the matter of acceptance and scrutiny of nominations and various forms.

Justice N. Nagaresh, while dismissing the writ petitions of National Democratic Alliance candidates in the Thalassery, Guruvayur, and Devikulam Assembly constituencies against the rejection of their nomination papers, observed that “when some candidates get the benefits of liberal approach of the returning officers, some others are put to disadvantageous position affecting their statutory right under the Representation of the People Act to contest in the elections”.

The court opined that “the Election Commission of India shall take necessary steps so that such differential treatment is excluded and the purity of the election process is preserved”.

The NDA candidates, in their petitions, alleged that time had been granted to LDF candidates in the Konni and Pirvom constituencies to correct the defects in their nomination papers. Besides, the scrutiny of the nomination papers in the constituencies had been postponed. But no such time was granted to the petitioners to rectify the mistakes in their papers.

The Election Commission, while taking objection to the pleas of the NDA candidates, submitted that any interference by the High Court at this stage would disrupt, stall, and upset the whole election process.

SC directive

In fact, the Supreme Court had held that elections had to be concluded as early as possible as per the schedule and all controversial matters and disputes arising out of the election process should be postponed until after the election so that election proceedings would not be unduly retarded or protracted.

There could not be a two-pronged attack: one by invoking the writ jurisdiction of the High Court and another by filing an election petition after the declaration of the elections.

The alleged improper rejection of nomination papers was a ground for declaring void an election of a candidate under Section 100(1)(c) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Once the nomination papers of a candidate were rejected, the Act provided only one remedy; i.e. filing of election petition after the election was over, the EC pointed out in its statement.

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