Partly allowing the appeal by Madhya Pradesh MLA Sri. Ajay Arjun Singh, the Supreme Court in Ajay Arjun Singh vs. Sharadendu Tiwari has held that, use of Helicopters by ‘star campaigners’ of election, for travelling outside their constituencies, cannot be included in their election expenditure. Apex Court Bench comprising of Justices J. Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre, also held that a ‘Star campaigner’ is under no legal obligation to make any declaration of the expenditure incurred by him in connection with meeting held outside the constituency he contests.
Ajay Singh, Son of Late Former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh is the returned candidate from 76 - Churhat Assembly constituency of the State of Madhya Pradesh in the General Elections held in the year 2013. The said election was challenged by one Sharadendu Tiwari on various grounds. Ajay Singh approached the Apex Court against the High Court order dismissing his application to strike out certain paragraphs in the pleadings.
The Court partly allowing the appeal held: “The specific pleading in the election petition at paragraph 14M is that the appellant herein used the helicopter on many occasions during the relevant period only between Bhopal and Sidhi, both of which are outside the constituency of the appellant. The admitted fact is that the appellant was one of the star campaigners for the said election for the State of Madhya Pradesh. Therefore, he was required to campaign for his political party, not only in his constituency but also in other constituencies of the State. In the absence of any allegation that the appellant used the helicopter for traveling within 76-Churahat constituency for the purpose of campaigning, the expenditure incurred on that account, in our opinion, cannot be included in the election expenditure of the appellant.”
Referring to relevant statutes, the Court said: “The entire expenditure incurred (on whatsoever count) by such star campaigners or on behalf of such star campaigners is not exempted under Section 77 for the purpose of determining the total expenditure incurred by any candidate in an election. The language of explanation 1 to Section 77 makes it clear that only the expenditure incurred by the star campaigner that too on account of travel for propagating the programme of the political party is excluded for the purpose of computing the expenditure incurred by the candidate. In other words, the expenditure incurred in connection with arrangements like erection of pandals etc. for a meeting of a star campaigner does not form part of the exempted expenditure under explanation 1. Secondly, under explanation II, the star campaigners’ travel expenditure must have been incurred by the star campaigner himself. It is obvious from the opening clause of explanation 1 “the expenditure incurred by leaders of a political party”. If such expenditure is incurred by any person other than the star campaigner, different considerations would arise.”
The Court further observed: “Coming to the second limb of that head regarding the cost incurred for the construction of pandals or barricades in connection with the abovementioned meeting of Shri Rahul Gandhi, the stand taken by the appellant in the abovementioned IA is that the said meeting was held beyond the territorial limit of the assembly constituency from which the appellant contested. The Indian National Congress Party’s candidate contesting from Sidhi constituency had declared the expenditure incurred in connection with the said meeting. The appellant is under no legal obligation to make any declaration of the expenditure incurred by him in connection with the said meeting.”
Deprecating the practice of initially filing a petition under Order VII Rule 11 petition, praying that the election petition be dismissed and filing the application under Order VI Rule 16 seeking striking out of paragraphs of the election petition, the Court held: “Preliminary objections, if any, (in cases where there is more than one) in an election petition are to be taken at the earliest point of time and in one go. The practice such as the one adopted by the appellant only tends to delay the adjudication of the election petition which are mandated by the Parliament to be decided within a period of six months. We declare that the later of such successive petitions must be dismissed by High Courts in limine on that count alone.”
Read the Judgment here.