Top Court Rejects Plea Against Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha Bypoll

Top Court Rejects Plea Against Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha Bypoll

New Delhi : The Supreme Court has rejected a plea filed against the Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha bypoll, saying "in a hallowed democratic body polity, the seminal requirement is fair and timely election".

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed an appeal filed against order of the Bombay High Court's Nagpur bench, which had rejected the plea filed by a Nagpur resident Pramod Gudadhe requesting not to allow the bypoll.

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The bench said: "Purity of election abandoning any kind of dogmatic idea is consubstantial to sustain the fundamental concept of democracy which is a basic feature of our Constitution. If the 'thought of democracy' is sullied, the cornerstone of the rule of law is corroded."

When an individual, bereft of his status, goes to an election booth to cast his vote, he "feels empowered and dignified", it said, adding: "His self-esteem is accentuated as his inner conscience tells him that in his exercise of franchise, he is choosing a representative who shall represent the constituency. This is the very sense of feeling empowered."

"The participation makes him realize his political right and the collective feels that there shall be governance in accord with the Constitution so that the individual rights are protected and the collective aspirations are taken care of. It has been said by many protagonists of democracy that an atmosphere should always exist when precepts of democracy remain safe," observed the bench in its judgment passed on Wednesday.

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The top court said that the Constitution gives emphasis on many aspects of political rights having regard to the rights of an individual. "Thus, in a democracy, holding of elections becomes significant and the constitutional and statutory provisions take care of it."

Gudadhe had moved the court against the High Court order saying that when fresh Lok Sabha polls were merely a year away, expenditure on conducting the bypoll could be a waste.

On December 8, 2017, sitting Bharatiya Janata Party member Nana Patoles resigned from the party and joined the Congress. His resignation was accepted by the Lok Sabha Speaker on December 14, 2017.

According to Gudadhe, if the election commenced in the month of May 2018, the effective period which the new incumbent would get is only upto March, 2019, that is, less than one year and, therefore, he would not be in a position to function with all vigour and render service to the public and there shall be huge expenditure in conducting the election.

The bench dismissing the appeal said the command of Section 151A of Representation of the People Act is to hold the election within a period of six months from the date of occurrence of the vacancy, and the vacancy occurred when his resignation was accepted.

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The apex court said that it is beyond any dispute that the next general election to Lok Sabha is in June, 2019, therefore, the remainder of the term is not less than one year. "Whether the election is to be held or not would be governed by clause (b) to the proviso to Section 151A and we are not concerned with the same."

"The concern expressed with regard to load on the exchequer cannot be treated as a ground. It is so because the representative democracy has to sustain itself by the elected representatives," it added.

The Representation of the People Act obliges the competent authority to see to it that no constituency remains unrepresented beyond a definite period, it is because the elected representative is expected to echo the concerns of the electoral college in entirety, said the bench.

"The voters cannot be deprived of the said right if the statute confers such a protection. Though the right to contest an election is not a fundamental right, yet no interpretation should be placed on a statutory provision that will defeat the essential purpose of representation," it added.

Bypoll to Bhandara-Gondiya will be held on May 28.

(Inputs From IANS )

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