Dehradun: Uttarakhand HC on Thursday while disposing a PIL alleging horse-trading, bribe and miscellaneous power in panchayat elections in the state, issued multiple directions to the state election commission.
The suggestions included considering reduction of the time gap between the declaration of results in direct elections, and the date of election to the offices of Block Pramukh and Zila Adhyaksh, to the barest minimum.
The division bench of chief justice Ramesh Ranganathan and justice Alok Kumar Verma taking note of allegations in the PIL added that malpractices relating to foreign jaunts or paid holidays to voters, both within the state and elsewhere in the country, can be easily curbed by the state election commission by asking the candidates to submit information regarding the source of funds for their activities.
The PIL was filed by Vipul Jain, a resident of Dehradun alleging rampant corruption in panchayat elections in Uttarakhand.
The court in the order said that as travelling abroad would require an endorsement on the passport, any complaint, regarding foreign travel of BDC members and Zila Panchayat members, can be easily verified within the country or to Nepal, with a little more effort.
The bench ruled that in case the state election commission fails to take action on complaints regarding electoral malpractices on the eve of polls, "it is open to the complainant to invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India".
Stating that in order for the process of elections, to be truly meaningful, it is necessary to ensure there is an independent and impartial body to oversee the entire procedure.
The court also added various other directions such as issuing necessary guidelines and wide publicity regarding the names and designations of election officials to whom the general public may complain if corrupt practices come to their notice.
Further, framing guidelines regarding the nature of action taken by these officials, should include informing candidates contesting for offices of Block Pramukh and Zila Adhyaksh, in writing of its power, in case it is found that there has been malpractice, to postpone the polls till it is able to ensure free and fair elections, or to countermand and hold elections afresh.
Adding that data from whatever be the source (including newspaper reports) should not be neglected.
Remarking that the price of democracy is not merely eternal vigilance, but perpetual and creative citizen’s activity, the bench ruled that any complaint received by the district magistrates and the district superintendents of Police should not only be forwarded to the state election commission forthwith, but immediate action should also be taken at their end to enquire into these allegations.
The court also added that if the allegations are found to be true, immediate action, including lodging an FIR against the accused under the IPC should be taken, and a report should be submitted to the commission.