Rejecting allegations of large-scale irregularities and rigging in last October's civic polls in the metropolis, the Madras High Court on Thursday dismissed all writ petitions and contempt applications relating to the manner in which Chennai Corporation elections were held.
In its common order on a batch of petitions, a Division Bench comprising Justices D.Murugesan and K.K.Sasidharan said the petitioners' grievance that an order passed by a Division Bench on October 14 last year had been violated and it would result in automatic invalidation of election was unacceptable. This was because there was no material to prove large-scale violations, poll-related irregularities, booth capturing, rigging, bogus voting or any other exceptional and extraordinary circumstances to set aside the elections by entertaining the petitions.
The six petitions, including the one by the DMK, challenged the elections to the Corporation, primarily on the ground that the Returning Officer (RO) failed to provide video coverage in all booths. The RO made no attempt to distribute uniformly police personnel from other States in spite of a specific direction by a Division Bench on October 14 last year. In that order, the Bench had given various other directions.
Messrs.Justices Murugesan and Sasidharan said the petitioners wanted the elections to be set aside on the basis of their self-serving statements in the respective affidavits and the earlier representations submitted to the State Election Commission. None of the petitions contained at least prima facie material setting out the cause of action for filing a writ petition in an election matter. The affidavits were bereft of details. There were no specific instances of rigging or booth capturing or bogus voting. There were only general allegations without any iota of proof.
The Bench observed that in one petition, the petitioner, an advocate, had no personal knowledge of the alleged discrepancies stated in his affidavit. He had filed the petition on the basis of information given by third parties.
In case writ petitions were allowed on the basis of such wild allegations without any kind of material proof, it would nullify the elections of successful candidates. “In a democracy, the will of the people is supreme. Mandate given by the people cannot be set aside without adequate reasons.” While testing the validity of an election, the court should insist on primary material. Mere statements were not sufficient.
There was no material before the court to suggest that failure on the part of the Returning Officer to provide video coverage, materially affected the elections.
The Bench said the court's direction regarding video coverage in all polling booths had been substantially complied with, barring a few polling booths. Even there, random video recording had been done.
The authorities had made all necessary arrangements to comply with the directions of the Division Bench on October 14 last year. As such, they were not liable for contempt, Messrs.Justices Murugesan and Sasidharan said.