Mere Criticism Of HC Verdict In Public Speech Not Corrupt Practice Under RP Act: Madhya Pradesh HC [Read Judgment]
‘Mere criticism of the judgment of the High Court in public speech, in the opinion of this Court, shall not tantamount to corrupt practice as defined under section 123 of the R.P. Act.’
While dismissing an election petition against a BJP MLA, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has observed that mere criticism of a judgment of the high court in public speech will not tantamount to corrupt practice as defined under Section 123 of the Representation of People Act.
One of the allegations in the election petition filed by the defeated candidate was that, during an election rally, Vikram Verma, husband of the candidate, in his public address had criticized the judgment of the high court with a remark that 'Gods do not sit in the High Court' and that main points were left out. Another allegation was with regard to giving a speech to incite Hindu feeling of voters.
Justice Rohit Arya observed: “First part of clause (iv) 'Gods do not sit in the High Court, that main points were left out' is concerned, mere criticism of the judgment of the High Court in public speech, in the opinion of this Court, shall not tantamount to corrupt practice as defined under section 123 of the R.P. Act;”
The court also observed that the candidate was not present in the meeting at the time Vikram Verma gave speech and, therefore, even if the alleged speech of Vikram Verma is construed as corrupt practice on wild imagination, since the same is not found to be with the consent of the respondent or her election agent, the election of the respondent/returned candidate cannot be held void.
The court further held: “To bring the alleged statement of fact related to the personal character or conduct of any candidate within the mischief of subsection (4) of section 123 of the R.P. Act, it has to fulfill three-fold requirement; (i) the statement of fact was false; (ii) the candidate making it either believed it to be false or does not believe it to be true; and (iii) such statement reasonably calculated to prejudice the prospects of the election of the candidate against whom it is made. Further, an element of mens rea is a necessary ingredient of such alleged corrupt practice because the provision under section 123(4) of the R.P. Act does not accept the doctrine of constructive knowledge.”
The bench also imposed cost of Rs. 1 lakh on the petitioner observing that he filed election petition with vague or reckless allegations of corrupt practice without foundation and sought to be proved by evasive, inaccurate and inadmissible evidence, and kept it pending from the year 2014 only for ‘political survival in the public eye’.
Read the Judgment Here