A Petition has been filed before the Madhya Pradesh High Court (Indore Bench) seeking directions for the Respondents to delete the name of ineligible voters from the Electoral Roll of Sanwer Constituency.
The Plea also seeks directions for the Respondents to initiate the Election Process in accordance with the statutory provisions and publish the Draft Electoral Roll of Sanwer Constituency after deletion of the names of ineligible voters, so that the Statutory Right of the Petitioners is protected.
The Petition has been filed by Mangilal Prajapati and others through Advocate Ravindra Singh Chhabra and Advocate Mudit Maheshwari claiming that Respondents has not adhered to the Statutory provisions of the Representation of People Act, 1950, which provides for publication of Draft Electoral Roll prior to the bye-elections.
Notably, the Chief Election Commissioner, Election Commission of India (Respondent No. 1), the Chief Electoral Officer, Madhya Pradesh (Respondent No. 2), the District Election Officer (Collector Indore) (Respondent No. 3), the Electoral Registration Officer (Sub-Divisional Magistrate Sanwer) (Respondent No. 4) have been made the respondents in the Petition.
The Petitioners have stated that the Respondents have failed to act upon the objections raised by the Petitioners for deletion of the names of ineligible voters from the Electoral Roll of Sanwer Constituency.
Further, it has been contended that the deliberate delay and lackadaisical attitude of the Respondents in not taking cognizance of the objections and even the legal notice is likely to impinge upon the basic tenet of democracy i.e. conduction of free and fair elections.
The subject-matter of the Petition in brief
On account of the resignation of Mr. Tulsi Silawat, MLA from Sanwer Constituency, the seat of Sanwer constituency fell vacant.
As a consequence, bye-election for the assembly seat of Sanwer Constituency is to be conducted within 6 months from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy or on such extended date as may be determined by the Election Commission of India in consultation with the Central Government as per the mandate of Section 151-A of the Representation of People Act, 1951.
The petitioners examined the voter list of the Constituency and found that voters of some polling booths have either shifted to some other place and as such, they are no more "ordinary residents" (as per Section 20 of the Representation of People Act, 1950) of the area or are dead or are registered in more than one polling station or are not available at the said place etc.
Petitioners, thereafter, filed an objection in Form 7 before the Respondent no. 4 on 15.07.2020.
However, when no action was taken by the Electoral Registration Officer (SDM Sanwer), the Petitioners through their Advocate issued a legal notice on 07.08.2020 to the Respondents for taking cognizance in the matter and to direct the Registering Officer to "Publish Draft Electoral Roll" at the earliest after taking into consideration the objections filed by the Petitioners.
On receipt of the legal notice, the office of Respondent no.3 vide letter dated 11.08.2020 directed Respondent no. 4 to investigate the matter within a period of one week and inform the same to the objectors.
The Petitioners further allege that till date no action has been taken by the respondents for removing the name of ineligible voters.
In order to rule out any foul play, the Petitioners claim, they have approached the High Court to ensure that free and fair elections are held and the basic tenet of the Constitution of India namely the democratic setup is maintained.
It is to be noted that Respondent no. 1 vide Press Release dated 04.09.2020 notified that elections in the State of Bihar and bye-elections in other states would be conducted before 29th November, 2020.
Lastly, the petitioner claims that looking to the testing and trying time of COVID-19 and the manner in which the Government was toppled in the State, it becomes more incumbent on the Respondents to earnestly adhere to the statutory provisions of the Act, 1950 and Act, 1951 so that actual will of the people is reflected in the ensuing bye-elections.
Grounds for approaching the High Court (as mentioned in the Plea)
* Section 19 of the Representation of People Act, 1950 mandates that only a person above the age of 18 years and an "ordinary resident" of the constituency is entitled to be registered in the electoral roll of the constituency.
* Section 21 read with Section 22 of the Representation of People Act, 1950 mandates revision and correction of the Electoral Rolls before each bye-election to fill the casual vacancy.
* Respondent no. 1's Manual on Electoral Rolls in Chapter 10: Pre-Revision Activities categorically stipulates that updation of Electoral Rolls is a continuous process and claims/ objection for inclusion/ deletion of names can be lodged at any time point of time.
* Section 17 of the Representation of People Act, 1950 mandates that an elector shall not be registered in more than one constituency.
* Draft electoral roll shall be published at least 31 days to 46 days prior to the date of polling.
* Section 13A and 13AA of the Representation of People Act, 1950 it is the statutory duty of the Respondent no. 2 and 3 to ensure and to supervise the preparation, revision and correction of all electoral rolls.
* Only an ordinary resident is entitled to vote in an election. If any person - other than the ordinary resident of that area - is allowed to vote, the same is likely to not only affect the outcome of the Elections but also affect the democratic setup and the constitutionality of the elections.
The matter is likely to be taken up for consideration on Thursday (24th September).
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