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There will be chaos if we start entertaining pleas against rejection of nomination papers: SC

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New Delhi: There will be “chaos” if the Supreme Court starts entertaining petitions against rejection of nomination papers, an apex court bench said on Friday while dismissing the plea of a man from Bihar who intended to contest the Lok Sabha elections as an Independent candidate but his papers were rejected.

The bench said the remedy lay in filing election petitions against such rejection of nomination papers and not in approaching the top court with the grievance.

“There will be chaos if we start entertaining petitions under Article 32 (it confers the right to constitutional remedies for enforcement of fundamental rights) under the Constitution against rejection of the nomination papers,” a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala said.

The bench, however, permitted lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava, representing Jawahar Kumar Jha, whose nomination as an Independent candidate for the Banka seat for the ensuing Lok Sabha polls was rejected by the returning officer (RO), to seek appropriate legal remedy.

During the hearing, the CJI said, “Even if we issue notice and hear the matter, it will go beyond the elections. You have to follow the discipline of election law. We are not inclined to entertain the plea against rejection of his nomination papers. The petitioner can pursue such remedies as available under law.”

In his plea, Jha had sought directions to the Election Commission to curb “arbitrary and mala fide” exercise of discretion by the returning officers in rejecting nomination papers.

Section 36 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 deals with scrutiny of nomination papers by the RO and its sub-section 4 says the “RO shall not reject any nomination paper on the ground of any defect which is not of a substantial character”.

Jha had moved the top court directly against rejection of his nomination papers.

“Issue urgent appropriate writ, order or direction to specifically define the defects of substantial character within the meaning of Section 36 (4) of the Representation of the People Act,” Jha said in his petition.

“The said section 36 (4) of the Act, 1951 states that the returning officer shall not reject any nomination paper on the ground of any defect which is not of a ‘substantial character’. However, there is no specific definition to specify as to what will constitute a defect of substantial character,” he said.

The petitioner said in the absence of any specific definition, the ROs are often found to be rejecting the nomination papers of various candidates in an utterly arbitrary and whimsical manner.

“Such unbridled, ambiguous, discretionary and arbitrary exercise of power by the Returning Officers is posing grave danger to our democracy, as sometimes eligible and popular candidates are being ousted on extraneous consideration and non-suitable candidates are being confirmed despite having glaring defects in their nomination forms,” it said.

The petitioner had also sought a direction to the ROs across the country “to mandatorily provide a reasonable opportunity of at least a day to every candidate to cure every defect marked in the election nomination papers”.

Polling for the Banka parliamentary constituency will be held on April 26.


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