Saturday 16 October 2021

Whether Returning Officer can accept the defective nomination paper for election?

 In Harcharan Singh Vs. S. Mohinder Singh and Ors. - AIR 1968 SC 1500 the purpose of the provisions contained in Sections 33 and 36 of the Act was stated by their Lordships in these words – "The primary purpose of the diverse provisions of the election law which may appear to be technical is to safeguard the purity of the election process and the Courts will not ordinarily minimize their operation." Their Lordships further observed that "the statutory requirements of election law must be strictly observed. An election dispute is a statutory proceeding unknown to the common law: it is not an action at law or in equity. But under S.36(4) the Returning Officer is entitled to accept the nomination paper even if it be defective, if the defect is not of a substantial character. He is enjoined not to reject the nomination paper unless the defect is of a substantial character." Harcharan Singh's case (supra) was one where the details for identifying the appellant as an elector were duly furnished and his age though mentioned in the nomination paper was not to be found in the certified copy produced by him and no objection was raised to the acceptance of the nomination paper on behalf of the contesting candidate. The returning officer satisfied himself by personal enquiry that the appellant was above the age of 25 and therefore competent to stand for election. It was held that even though the copy produced was defective because of the absence therefrom of the house number entered in the electoral register, yet the defect was not of a substantial character and hence the returning officer was justified in not rejecting the nomination paper. In Viveka Nand Giri Vs. Nawal Kishore Sahi – (1984) 3 SCC 10 there was a difference in the age as recorded in the electoral roll and as stated in the nomination paper. It was held that the nomination paper would fall in the category of an inaccurate description and the returning officer could not have rejected the nomination. In Karnail Singh Vs. Election Tribunal, Hissar and Ors. - 10 ELR 189 the name of the Sub-Division was not stated in the nomination paper. However, it was quite clear that there was no difficulty in identifying the candidate. The defect was held to be a technical one and not of substantial character.

A reference may usefully be made to the maxim "Falsa demonstratio non nocet cum de corrore constat" which means mere false description does not vitiate, if there be sufficient certainty as to the object. 'Falsa demonstratio' means an erroneous description of a person or a thing in a written instrument; and the above rule respecting it signifies that where the description is made up of more than one part, and one part is true, but the other false, there, if the part which is true describes the subject with sufficient legal certainty, the untrue part will be rejected and will not vitiate the devise: the characteristic of cases within the rule being that the description, so far as it is false, applies to no subject at all, and, so far as it is true, applies to one only. (See Broom's Legal Maxims, 10th Edition, pp. 426-

427). Broom quotes (at page 438) an example that an error in the proper name or in the surname of the legatee should not make the legacy void, provided it could be understood from the will what person was intended to be benefited thereby.

There is no manner of doubt that the respondent is a duly enrolled elector in the voters list of No.23 Ramgarh Assembly Constituency. In the voters list as well as in the nomination paper the respondent was correctly described. The omission of his second name 'Lal' from the voters list is inadvertent or accidental and in any case merely technical. There is no doubt about the identity of the respondent. Apparently that is why none of the candidates including the writ petitioner and no one else raised any objection to the acceptance of the nomination paper by submitting that the respondent was not a registered elector of the constituency. The returning officer entered into suo moto enquiry for his own satisfaction, and felt satisfied by looking into the electoral list of the constituency available with him, that the respondent Babu Lal Marandi was the same person who was mentioned as Babu Marandi in the electoral list. Being an elector in the same constituency wherefrom he was contesting election it was not necessary for him to have filed a certified copy of the relevant entry from the voters list. Before the High Court, the writ petitioner has chosen not to adduce any evidence to demonstrate that the returning officer was not right in arriving at the satisfaction which he did or that the respondent was not enrolled in the electoral list of that constituency or was the one enrolled in some other constituency. The High Court has not erred in holding the election of the respondent not liable to be set aside.

Supreme Court of India
Harikrishna Lal vs Babu Lal Marandi on 30 October, 2003
Author: R Lahoti

Bench: R.C. Lahoti, Ashok Bhan
Citation: (2003) 8 SCC 613
Read full Judgment here: Click here
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