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Ram Gopal v. Up Ziladhikari, Mathura - WRIT - C No. 17155 of 2004  RD-AH 312 (14 July 2004)
Civil Misc. Writ Petition No.17155 of 2004
Ram Gopal v. Up Ziladhikari, Mathura and others
Hon'ble R.K.Agrawal, J.
By means of the present writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner seeks a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari calling for the record from the Court of the Up Ziladhikari, Mathura, respondent no.1 and quash the order dated 17th April 2004 passed by the respondent no.1, filed as Annexure 10 to the writ petition and other consequential reliefs. By means of the order dated 17th April 2004, the respondent no.1 has allowed the application dated 27th December 2002 filed by Ram Saran, respondent no.3, for recounting of the votes and had directed for recounting.
Briefly stated, the facts giving rise to the present writ petition are as follows:-
Election for the post of the Pradhan of Gram Panchayat Badhal Incha, district Mathura was held in the month of June 2000, in which the petitioner was declared elected by a margin of 29 votes. The defeated candidate, respondent no.3, challenged his election by means of Election Petition No.1/1999-2000. In the election petition, the respondent no.3 had averred that irregularities had been committed in the counting of the votes. He gave specific number of ballot papers. Paragraphs 10 and 11 of the election petition is reproduced below:-
"10. YEH KI BIPAKSHI SA.1 KE LAGBHAG 40 MATPATRA AISE THE JO AWAIDH WA NIRAST HONE CHAHIYE THE PARANTU IN AWAIDH MATPATRO KI AAPATTI KE BABJOOD BIPAKSHI KE VAIDH MATO ME GIN DIYA GAYA. BAR BAR AAPATTI KARNE WA AGRAH KARNE PER BHI AISE SABHI MATPATRO KE NUMBER NOTE NAHI KARNE DIYE. KUCHH NUMBERO KO YACHI JO NOTE KAR PAYA HAI UNKI SANKHYA 4642060, 4641988, 4642134, 4662200, 4641843, 4841848, 4642138, 4641998, HAI NIRAST HONE CHAHIYE.
11. YEH KI GARNA KE DAURAN YACHI KE LAGBHAG 20 MATPATRA AISE THE JO VAIDH HAI TATHA SPASHTA ROOP SE YACHI KE CHUNAV CHINHA KAR KE KHANE ME MUHAR LAGI HUI HAI PARANTU IN MATO KO JABARDASTI BAHAR NIKAL DENE KI DHAMKI DEKAR NIRAST KAR DIYA TATHA INKE NUMBER NOTE KARANE KI BHI ANSUNI KI. INME SE KUCHH MATPATRO KE NUMBERAN JO YACHI NOTE KAR SAKA HAI - 4642002, 4641987, 4641992, 4642253, 4642054, 4641841, 4642059, 4642202, 4642199, 4642132, 4641920, 4641912 ME SABHI MAT WA ANYA LAGBHAG 8 MAT VAIDH HAI JO YACHI KE PAKSHA ME GINE JANE CHAHIYE THE."
The petitioner filed his written statement refuting the allegations. The allegations regarding irregularity in counting was also denied.
The respondent no.3 filed an application on 27th December 2002 seeking a direction for recounting of the votes. Evidence was led. The respondent no.3 and one Sri Roshan Lal gave evidence on behalf of the election petitioner whereas the petitioner himself appeared in the witness box. The respondent no.1 after taking into consideration the averments made in the election petition and the statement/evidence given by the respective parties, by the impugned order had directed for recounting of the ballot papers which order is under challenge in the present writ petition.
I have heard Sri S.V.Goswami, the learned counsel for the petitioner, and Sri Anupam Kulshrestha who has appeared for the respondent no.3.
The learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the respondent no.1 had committed a manifest error of law in directing for recounting of the ballot papers as averments made by the respondent no.3 in his election petition were vague and could not have been believed. According to him, in the election petition the respondent no.3 while giving the number of ballot papers in paragraphs 10 and 11 had specifically stated that he had noted down the numbers of the ballot papers whereas in the evidence he had stated that the number of 21 ballot papers which were declared invalid, had been noted down by Roshan Lal who was the agent of B.D.Singh and have given the slip of paper to him. Similarly, in respect of 50 votes which were declared invalid, the numbers were noted by Roshan Lal. This was also the case in respect of 19 votes which had been rejected. Sri Goswami referred to Rules 47, 48 and 49 of the U.P. Panchayat Raj (Election of Members, Pradhan, etc.) Rules, 1994 and submitted that only one counting agent appointed by the contesting candidate is permitted to be present in the counting of votes and no other person is allowed to be present. According to him, the manner and procedure of counting having been specified in the Rules, any person who has been unauthorisedly present or who claims himself to be present in the counting of vote not as an agent of the contesting candidate, and gives any material or information, it cannot be relied or acted upon. According to him, the evidence of Roshan Lal cannot be taken into consideration as he was not the agent of the respondent no.3 and could not have any personal knowledge regarding the rejection of the ballot papers. He, thus, submitted that there was no material before the respondent no.1 for directing recounting of the ballot papers. According to him, the secrecy of the ballot is sacrosanct and should not be permitted to be violated lightly and merely for asking or on vague and indefinite allegations or averments of general nature and, therefore, the order of recounting should be set aside. He relied upon the following decisions :-
1. Suresh Prasad Yadav v. Jai Prakash Mishra and others, AIR 1975 SC 376;
2. Ram Adhar Singh v. District Judge, Ghazipur and others, 1985 UPLBEC 317;
3. V.S.Achuthanandan v. P.J.Francis, (2001) 3 SCC 81;
4. Smt. Hazzee v. Prescribed Authority and others, 2003(94) RD 108;
5. Brijbasi Lal Shrivastava v. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1979 SC 1080; and
6. Smt. Krishna Kanwar @ Thakuraeen v. State of Rajasthan, 2004 AIR SCW 1203.
Sri Anupam Kulshrestha, the learned counsel for the respondent no.3, however, submitted that the respondent no.3 had made specific averments in the election petition and had also given the number of ballot papers which had been wrongly rejected, which fact had been corroborated in evidence by the respondent no.3 as also Roshan Lal who was present on the spot as election agent of B.D.Singh and, therefore, the respondent no.1 had rightly directed for recounting of ballot papers and this Court should not interfere in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. He relied upon the following decisions:-
1. Beliram Bhalaik v. Jai Behari Lal Khachi and another, AIR 1975 SC 283;
2. N.Narayanan v. S.Semmalai and others, AIR 1980 SC 206.
3. Smt. Maya v. Up Ziladhikari (Vihit Pradhikari) Chatta (Mathura) and others, 2003 (94) RD 125; and
4. Smt. Bhoori v. Additional Sub Divisional Magistrate, Amroha/Election Tribunal, Amroha,District Jyotiba Phulenagar and others, (2003) 1 SAC 717.
Having heard the learned counsel for the parties, I find that as already mentioned hereinbefore, the respondent no.3 who was the defeated candidate, in his election petition had stated that some of the ballot papers had been illegally rejected. He had given the numbers of the ballot papers also. He had further stated that some of the invalid ballot papers had been wrongly counted in favour of the petitioner. Specific numbers have been given by him. He further stated that these numbers were noted by him. However, in his evidence it has come that the number of 21 ballot papers whichhad been declared invalid, had been noted down by Roshan Lal, on a piece of paper which was handed over to him. It may be mentioned here that B.D.Singh was not a candidate for the post of Pradhan but for member in respect of which counting was separately done. In the deposition by Roshan Lal, he has stated that 20 votes were declared invalid, the account of which was maintained by him. Today that account is not with him nor it is in his house. Moreover, he had not given the said account to any body. Thus, from the aforesaid evidence it is absolutely clear that the plea of the respondent no.3 that he had himself noted down the numbers of the ballot papers, stand disproved. Moreover, as stated by Roshan Lal that he had not given the account to any body, shows that the number of ballot papers have simply been mentioned just to give an authenticity to the averments made by the respondent no.3 in paragraphs 10 and 11 of the election petition.
In the case of Suresh Prasad Yadav (supra), the Hon'ble Supreme Court had laid down the principle on which recount of the ballot papers should be ordered, as under :-
"The Court would be justified in ordering a recount of the ballot papers, only where -
(1) the election-petition contains an adequate statement f all the material facts on which the allegations of irregularity or illegality in counting are founded;
(2) On the basis of evidence adduced such allegations are prima facie established, affording a good ground for believing that there has been a mistake in counting; and
(3) The Court trying the petition is prima facie satisfied that the making of such an order is imperatively necessary to decide the dispute and to do complete and effectual justice between the parties."
In the case of Ram Adhar Singh (supra), a Full bench of this Court had applied the principles laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Bhabhi (supra) and N.Narayanan (supra) to a case arising under the U.P.Panchayat Raj Act as well. This Court has held as below:-
"19. Applying the principle with regard to inspection of ballot paper enunciated by the Supreme Court in cases arising under the Representation of People Act to an election petition dealt with under the provisions of the U.P.Panchayat Raj Act, there is no escape from the conclusion that before an authority hearing the election under the said Act can be permitted to look into or to direct inspection of the ballot papers, following two condition must the Consolidation Officer exist:
(1) that the petition for setting aside an election contains the grounds on which the election of the respondent is being questioned as also summary of the circumstances alleged to justify the election being questioned on such ground; and
(2) the authority is, prima facie, satisfied on the basis of the materials produced before it that there is ground for believing the existence of such ground and that making of such an inspection is imperatively necessary for deciding the dispute for doing complete justice between the parties.
It, therefore, follows that in the absence of any specification with regard to the ground on which the election of the respondent is being questioned together with summary of the circumstances alleged to justify the election being questioned on such ground, it is not open to the authority dealing with an application under Section 12-C of the U.P.Panchayat Raj Act, either to look into or direction inspection of ballot papers merely on the ground that it feels that it would be in the interest of justice to look into or permit inspection of the ballot papers. In the context, such satisfaction has necessarily to be based on specific averments made in and the materials indicated in the election petition which could, prima facie, satisfy the authority about the existence of the ground on which the election is sought to be questioned."
In the case of V.S.Achuthanandan (supra), the Hon'ble Supreme Court has re-stated the principles on which recounting of ballot can be ordered in para 13 as follows:-
"1.The secrecy of the ballot is sacrosanct and shall not be permitted to be violated lightly and merely for asking or on vague and indefinite allegations or averments of general nature. At the same time purity of election process has to be preserved and therefore inspection and recount shall be permitted but only a case being properly made out in that regard.
2.A petitioner seeking inspection and re-count of ballot papers must contain averments which are adequate, clear and specific making out a case of improper acceptance or rejection of votes or non-compliance with statutory provisions in counting. Vague and general allegations that valid votes were improperly rejected, or invalid votes were improperly accepted would not service the purpose.
3.The scheme of the rules prescribed in Part V of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 emphasises the point that the election petitioner who is a defeated candidate has ample opportunity to examine the voting papers before they are counted, and in case the objections raised by him or his election agent have been improperly overruled, he knows precisely the nature of the objections raised by him and the voting papers to which those objections related. It is in the light of this background that Section 83(1) of the Act has to be applied to the petitions made for inspection of ballot boxes. Such an application must contain a concise statement of the material facts.
4.The election petitioner must produce trustworthy material in support of the allegations made for a re-count enabling the court to record a satisfaction of a prima facie case having been made out for grant of the prayer. The court must come to the conclusion that it was necessary and imperative to grant the prayer for inspection to do full justice between the parties so as to completely and effectually adjudicate upon the dispute.
5.The power to direct inspection and re-count shall not be exercised by the court to show indulgence to a petitioner who was indulging in a roving enquiry with a view to fish out material for declaring the election to be void.
6.By mere production of the sealed boxes of ballot papers or the documents forming part of record of the election proceedings before the court the ballot papers do not become a part of the court record and they are not liable to be inspected unless the court is satisfied in accordance with the principles stated hereinabove to direct the inspection and re-count.
7.In the peculiar facts of a given case the court exercise its power to permit a sample inspection to lend further assurance to the prima facie satisfaction of the court regarding the truth of the allegations made in support of a prayer for re-count and not for the purpose of fishing out materials."
The aforesaid principles laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court has been followed by this Court in the case of Smt. Hazzee (supra).
In the case of Beli Ram (supra) the Hon'ble Supreme Court has held as follows :-
"Since an order for a recount touches upon the secrecy of the ballot, it should not be made lightly or as a matter of course. Although no caste iron rule of universal application can be or has been laid down, yet, from beadroll of the decisions of this Court, two broad guidelines are discernible: that the Court would be justified in ordering a recount or permitting inspection of the ballot papers only where (i) all the material facts on which the allegations of irregularity or illegality in counting are founded, are pleaded adequately in the election petition, and (in any circumstance,) the Court/Tribunal trying the petition is prima facie satisfied that the making of such an order is imperatively necessary to decide the dispute and to do complete and effectual justice between the parties - See (1964) 6 SCR 238 = (AIR 1964 SC 1249) (supra), Dr. Jagjit Singh v. Giani Kartar Singh, AIR 1966 SC 773; Jitendra Bahadur Singh v. Krishna Behari, (1970) 1 SCR 852 = (AIR 1970 SC 276) and Sumitra Devi v. Shri Sheo Shanker Prasad Yadav, AIR 1973 SC 215."
The case of N.Narayanan (supra) has been followed by the Full Bench of this Court in the case of Ram Adhar Singh (supra).
The principles laid down by the Apex Court in the case of Beli Ram (supra) has been followed by this Court in the case of Smt. Maya (supra) and Smt. Bhoori (supra).
Applying the principles laid down by the Apex Court in the aforementioned decisions and by the Full Bench of this Court to the facts of the present case, I find that even though specific numbers of ballot had been given by the respondent no.3 in his election petition, which has been claimed to either have been illegally rejected or illegally counted in favour of the petitioner, the said averments was not corroborated by the respondent no.3 either in his statement on oath or in the statement of Roshan Lal who was his witness. Thus, the averment regarding illegal rejection of the ballot papers and irregularity committed in counting has not been proved. In this view of the matter, the respondent no.1 was not justified in directing for recounting of the ballot papers.
In view of the conclusions arrived at on this issue, it is not necessary to go into the question as to whether the evidence of Roshan Lal can be taken into consideration.
In view of the foregoing discussion, the writ petition succeeds and is allowed. The order dated 17th April 2004 directing for recounting of the ballot papers is quashed. However, the respondent no.1 is directed to decide the election petition in accordance with law expeditiously.
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