Friday 15 October 2021

Whether court should dismiss an election petition at the threshold if pleadings of the petition are defective?

 Having gone through the contents of the election petition, we are satisfied that the High Court has not been right in directing the petition to be dismissed at the threshold by forming an opinion that the averments made in the election petition were deficient in material facts. It is not necessary to burden this judgment with reproduction of the several averments made in the election petition. The High Court has already done it. The test laid down in the several authorities referred to hereinabove and in particular in the case of Raj Narain (supra) is fully satisfied. The grounds of corrupt practice and the facts necessary to formulate a complete cause of action have been stated. Even the particulars have been given. However, if the Court feels that the particulars as given in the petition are deficient in any manner the petitioner can be directed to supply the particulars and make the deficiency good. In any case, deficiency in particulars could not have been a ground for dismissing the petition at the threshold. It is only the non- supply of particulars though ordered by the Court which could have led to either striking off of the pleadings or refusal to try the related instances of alleged corrupt practice. We cannot countenance the view taken by the High Court.

So is the case with the defect pointed out by the High Court in the affidavit filed in support of the election petition alleging corrupt practice by the winning candidate. The proviso enacted to sub-Section (1) of Section 83 of the Act is couched in a mandatory form inasmuch as it provides that a petition alleging corrupt practice shall be accompanied by an affidavit in the prescribed form in support of the allegations of such corrupt practice and the particulars thereof. The form is prescribed by Rule 94A. But at the same time, it cannot be lost sight of that failure to comply with the requirement as to filing of an affidavit cannot be a ground for dismissal of an election petition in limine under sub-Section (1) of Section 86 of the Act. The point is no more res integra and is covered by several decisions of this Court. Suffice it to refer to two recent decisions namely G. Mallikarjunappa and anr. Vs. Shamanur Shivashankarappa and ors. (2001) 4 SCC 428 and Dr. Vijay Laxmi Sadho Vs. Jagdish (2001) 2 SCC 247, both three-Judges Bench decisions, wherein the learned Chief Justice has spoken for the Benches. It has been held that an election petition is liable to be dismissed in limine under Section 86(1) of the Act if the election petition does not comply with either the provisions of "Section 81 or Section 82 or Section 117 of the RP Act". The requirement of filing an affidavit along with an election petition, in the prescribed form, in support of allegations of corrupt practice is contained in Section 83(1) of the Act. Non-compliance with the provisions of Section 83 of the Act, however, does not attract the consequences envisaged by Section 86(1) of the Act. Therefore, an election petition is not liable to be dismissed in limine under Section 86 of the Act, for alleged non-compliance with provisions of Section 83(1) or (2) of the Act or of its proviso. The defect in the verification and the affidavit is a curable defect. What other consequences, if any, may follow from an allegedly "defective" affidavit, is required to be judged at the trial of an election petition but Section 86(1) of the Act in terms cannot be attracted to such a case.

Having formed an opinion that there was any defect in the affidavit, the election petitioner should have been allowed an opportunity of removing the defect by filing a proper affidavit. Else the effect of such failure should have been left to be determined and adjudicated upon at the trial, as held in G. Mallikarjunappa and anr.'s case (supra).

Supreme Court of India
Sardar Harcharan Singh Brar vs Sukh Darshan Singh & Ors on 27 October, 2004
Author: R Lahoti

Bench: Cji, C.K. Thakker
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