Madras high court upholds ECI’s decision to cancel Vellore Lok Sabha election

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CHENNAI: Upholding the decision of the Election Commission of India (ECI) to rescind election to Vellore Lok Sabha constituency in view of the seizure of unaccounted money, the Madras high court on Wednesday dismissed the pleas moved by AIADMK candidate A C Shanmugam and independent candidate K Sugumar challenging it.

A special division bench of Justice S Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad said that courts cannot interfere in the decisions of the ECI.

President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday gave his nod to the Election Commission’s recommendation to rescind the election in the Vellore Lok Sabha constituency in the wake of seizure of unaccounted money from DMK candidate Kathir Anand. The cancellation came days after Rs 11.48 crore was seized by the income tax department from the constituency.

The primary contention of the petitioners was that Section 8A of the Representation of People Act envisages only the disqualification of a candidate for the commission of such corrupt practices and as such, the proper remedial measure in the present case, assuming that the ECI’s findings are accurate, would be the disqualification of the candidate concerned.

Pointing out that the cancellation notification was issued by the President, senior counsel Satish Parasaran said, “The President has no such power after elections are notified by the ECI. The powers of the President under the law work themselves out once a notification is issued under Section 14 of the RP Act.”

It is only the ECI that can then supervise or control an election which may also be done only as per RP Act. The cancellation notification issued under Section 14 of the RP Act read with Section 21 of the General Clauses Act lies in contravention of constitutional mandate conferred on the ECI, Parasaran added.

“There are 22 candidates contesting from the constituency but there is no single allegation in the notification that goes beyond one particular candidate. Therefore, the commission cannot be justified in cancelling the election,” he contended.

This apart, the senior counsel argued that to cancel an election there should be an unforeseen circumstance like booth capturing and rioting. But no such circumstances were prevailing in the constituency, he said.

Arguing for the independent candidate, senior counsel ARL Sundaresan said, “The notification itself says that by seizing the unaccounted money, the ECI has averted distribution of money to voters. That is, they have averted distribution of money at the preparation stage itself.”

“If seizure of money is the only ground for cancelling election, then so far over thousands of crores of rupees were seized across the country. Therefore, election cannot be conducted in all the constituencies where monies were seized,” Sundaresan said.

Opposing the pleas, ECI counsel Niranjan Rajagopal submitted that the commission has materials to substantiate that the environment in the constituency is vitiated and free election cannot be conducted.

There could not be a judicial review to go into whether there was a vitiated environment for the commission to cancel the election since the ECI was the expert body to decide, he added.

As to the submissions that corruption allegations are made only against a single candidate and not others, the ECI said, “Whether the environment for conducting free election is spoiled by one candidate or more does not matter,” he said.



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