The Madras High Court has pulled up the Returning Officer (RO), Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and Chief Election Commissioner for rejecting a candidate’s nomination papers for the by-election to Ilayangudi Assembly constituency in 2009.
Justice V Dhanapalan, who set aside the entire election as improper and illegal because of the lapses on the part of the RO, also imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on the trio to be paid within a month to the election petitioner.
Since the entire process was declared illegal and quashed, consequently, the election of DMK candidate S Mathiarasan was also set aside, even though there was no fault on his part, the judge said.
The judge was allowing an election petition from Kalaimani, a Makkal Manadu Katchi (MMK) leader, seeking a declaration that the rejection of his nomination papers on technical grounds, which were curable/rectifiable errors, as illegal, void and contrary to the provisions of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) and the Handbook on Instructions for ROs.
The judge said it was open to the government to recover the monetary benefits that were availed of by Mathiarasan during his two-year tenure.
“Though the matter has become infructuous in view of the serious lapses on the part of the RO and the CEO, the decision in the election petition could not only be academic but realistic as well. Accordingly, the RO and the CEO of the relevant period and the ECI are jointly and severally directed to pay the cost of Rs 25,000 to the election petitioner within a month,” the judge added.
In this case, it was vivid that the CEO had not done his duties as prescribed in the RP Act and the Rules and Instructions. As such, the inaction was hit by Article 14 of the Constitution.
Before parting with the case, the judge said it was desirable that the ECI should ensure the appointment of the ROs with the knowledge of electoral laws to avoid instances of this kind could be avoided.