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Long Pendency Of Election Petition Affects Smooth Functioning Of Legislature: Calcutta HC Dismisses BJP Candidate's Plea Over Delay In Filing Pleadings

Aaratrika Bhaumik
28 Feb 2022 2:00 PM GMT
Long Pendency Of Election Petition Affects Smooth Functioning Of Legislature: Calcutta HC Dismisses BJP Candidates Plea Over Delay In Filing Pleadings
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The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday dismissed an election petition of a BJP candidate after reprimanding him for his lackadaisical approach in handling the matter and further observing that it is essential that expeditious disposal of trial of election petitions take place for the smooth functioning of the legislature. Justice Amrita Sinha was adjudicating upon an election petition moved...

The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday dismissed an election petition of a BJP candidate after reprimanding him for his lackadaisical approach in handling the matter and further observing that it is essential that expeditious disposal of trial of election petitions take place for the smooth functioning of the legislature. 

Justice Amrita Sinha was adjudicating upon an election petition moved by a BJP candidate who had contested elections from 54-Baishnabnagar Assembly Constituency in the General Assembly Elections of West Bengal which took place in May 2021. 

Opining that the time period prescribed under Section 86(7) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (Act) is extremely essential for the purpose of conclusion of trial in an election petition, the Court underscored, 

"Time limit as prescribed in the Act is extremely essential for the purpose of conclusion of trial in an election petition, otherwise the returned candidate and the members of the constituency will remain in suspense with regard to their elected candidate and the smooth functioning of the legislature will suffer. Showing any leniency to the petitioner will be against the every object and purpose of expeditious disposal of trial of election petition. Spending any further time for trial of the present petition will amount to sheer wastage of valuable judicial hours which the Court ought not permit to do."

The Court further admonished the petitioner for his casual approach and dismissed his plea for condonation of delay owing to the pandemic. The Court accordingly remarked further, 

"I am of the opinion that the petitioner herein, is not seriously interested to proceed with the election petition. His conduct implies that he does not have a genuine grievance at all. He is simply trying to drag the matter for the reasons best known to him. Pandemic is certainly not the reason for such casual approach of the petitioner in conducting his case...The plea of pandemic cannot save the petitioner"

Background

The Court vide order dated July 16, 2021 had issued notice in the plea in terms of Rule 24 of the Election Petition Rules, 1967 framed by this Court. The matter was made returnable on August 20, 2021. By an order dated August 23, 2021 the respondent No.1 (opposing candidate) was directed to file the written statement within eight weeks and reply to the same was to be filed within four weeks thereafter.

On November 24, 2021 the counsel representing the petitioner sought extension of time for filing the reply to the written statement filed by the respondent No.1. The Court accepted such a prayer and extended the time limit by two weeks for filing the reply to the written statement.

On December 8, 2021 the counsel for the petitioner submitted before the Court that there was no instruction from the petitioner whether he intended to proceed with the matter any further or not. Accordingly, the reply to the written statement was not filed within the extended time period.

Furthermore, on February 3, 2022 the Advocate-on-record submitted that he has been engaged recently and required further time for filing the reply to the written statement. However, the prayer for extension of time for filing the reply was vehemently opposed by the opposing counsel. 

The Court permitted the petitioner to file the reply to the written statement, however, subject to the hearing of the objection of the respondent No.1, to be taken up for consideration on the subsequent date. Reply to the written statement was ultimately filed on February 17, 2022.

Observations 

The Court noted that the important object of the Act which is expeditious disposal of an election petition is enumerated under Section 86(6) which states, "the trial of an election petition shall, so far as is practicable consistently with the interest of justice in respect of the trial, be continued from day to day until its conclusion, unless the High Court finds the adjournment of the trial beyond the following day to be necessary for reasons to be recorded".

It was further observed that various decisions have laid down that the object of expeditious trial will be defeated if the presentation of the election petition should be treated casually and lightly permitting all kinds of devises to delay the ultimate trial.

The Court also took into consideration the reliance placed by the counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent No. 1 upon the Supreme Court judgment in Pukhrem Sharatchandra Singh v. Mairembam Prithviraj @ Prithibiraj Singh wherein the Apex Court had reiterated the principle of expeditious disposal of election petitions laid down in the Act.

"It appears from the conduct of the petitioner that he was never seriously interested to proceed with the matter. Learned Advocate initially appearing on behalf of the petitioner categorically expressed that no instruction was received from the petitioner whether he was at all interested to proceed with the matter or not", the Court remarked further. 

Reliance was also placed on the Calcutta High Court judgment in Biswanath Banerjee v. Tilak Kumar Chakraborty & Ors wherein the Court had similarly dismissed an election petition after recording that the election petitioner had not filed pleadings on time. 

Accordingly, the Court disposed of the election petition. 

Advocates Rudraman Bhattacharyya, Vikash Singh, Sudha Singh and Rahul Sharma appeared for the petitioner. Advocates Chitta Ranjan Chakraborty, Dip Jyoti Chakraborty and Amritam Mandal appeared for Respondent no.1. ECI was represented by advocate Anuran Samanta. 

Case Title: Swadhin Kumar Sarkar v. Chandana Sarkar and Ors 

Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 59

Click Here To Read/Download Order 


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