The Bombay High Court on Tuesday imposed a cost of Rs.25,000 on one Shrikrishna Adbol who had challenged the election of Akola Member of Parliament Sanjay Dhotre, presently the Union Minister of State for Department of IT and Telecommunication, in a writ petition alleging suppression of expenditure incurred by him during the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Division bench of Justice RV Ghuge and Justice SM Modak of the Nagpur bench dismissed the said petition after concluding that instead of an election petition under Section 81, the petitioner had filed a writ petition invoking Section 10 A of the Representation of People's Act even though the said provision simply pertained to the legal formality of lodging account of election expenses within the time and the manner required by the Act.
The petitioner filed an application under Section 10-A read with Chapter VIII and the rules framed thereunder before the Chief Election Commissioner under the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951. He sought Sanjay Dhotre's disqualification, on the ground that the election expenses were not lodged within the prescribed time under Section 10-A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951.
The said complaint contains several contentions and allegations regarding various expenses allegedly incurred by Dhotre in 2014. The complainant alleges that various senior leaders of the Bhartiya Janata Party had campaigned for Dhotre, who won Akola Lok Sabha seat in 2019 as well. The cost incurred by the party for advertisement in various newspapers has been speculated in the complaint. Allegedly the expenses for use of a helicopter, by the late Gopinath Munde, for campaigning, expenses incurred for publishing advertisements of PM Narendra Modi, has been suppressed by the returned candidate.
Under Secretary, Election Commission of India rejected the said complaint. Consequently, the writ petition was filed.
Advocate NB Rathod appeared for the petitioner, Neerja Chaubey for Election Commission of India, Mugdha Chandurkar for Sanjay Dhotre and AGP KL Dharmadhikari for the District Election Officer.
It was submitted on behalf of the respondents that the term of office for 2014 election has already expired in 2019, fresh elections were held in 2019 and Sanjay Dhotre once again returned as Member of Parliament from Akola constituency. Furthermore, the said petition is rendered infructuous as no purpose would be served by entertaining it. Also, valuable time of the court would be unnecessarily wasted.
Following this, Court called upon the petitioner's advocate and warned him that if it is found that Court's time has been wasted, costs are likely to be imposed. However, Advocate Rathod submitted that this petition deserves to be entertained and all his prayers set out in the complaint under Section 10-A will have to be dealt with by this Court.
Thus, the bench examined Section 10 A and observed-
"We find from Section 10-A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 that it provides for disqualification of a candidate for failure to lodge account of election expenses. It does not pertain to the disqualification only of the returned candidate."
Court also noted that the election expenses were lodged by Dhotre, the returned candidate on June 13, 2014 and petitioner's complaint was filed on April 20, 2015. Although, Advocate Rathod submitted that by mistake the date actually mentioned was March 20, 2014, Court observed that notary has not even mentioned the date on which the document was notarized before him.
"We are therefore, inclined to direct the learned Registrar (Judicial) to initiate appropriate steps into this matter."
Finally, Court said-
"Section 81 under Chapter II of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 provides for filing of an election petition calling in question any election, to be presented on one or more of the grounds specified in sub-section (1) of Section 100 and Section 101, to the High Court, by any candidate at such election or any elector, within forty-five days from the date of the election of the returned candidate.
It is obvious that the petitioner had lost on time and had preferred the complaint on 20.03.2015. Since an election petition was barred, he has taken a chance by filing the petition under Section 10-A of the Peoples Representation Act, 1951. We are therefore, convinced that the petitioner has shrewdly preferred such a complaint and has wasted the time of this Court."
Thus, the cost of Rs.25,000 was imposed and made payable to the Government Veterinary College and Hospital, Nagpur. Court also directed the Registrar (Judicial) to initiate appropriate action against the Notary after finding that he "did not even care to sign below the attestation".