Tamil Nadu

HC grants ‘final opportunity’ to Theni MP to file counter

A voter had challenged Raveendranath’s victory in polls

The Madras High Court on Wednesday granted a “final opportunity” — time till January 23 — to Theni Member of Parliament P. Raveendranath Kumar for filing his counter statement to an election petition preferred by a voter, P. Milany, challenging his election on the ground of alleged electoral malpractices like the bribing of voters.

Justice M.S. Ramesh granted time to Mr. Kumar after petitioner’s counsel V. Arun filed a memo urging the court to either restrain the MP from holding the post temporarily or to impose costs on him for allegedly adopting “delaying tactics” and not filing a counter statement despite the case having been adjourned on five occasions since August 13.

The lawyer pointed out that Section 86 (6) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951 states that every election petition filed in the High Court and assigned to a specific judge by the Chief Justice should, as far as practicable, be heard on a day-to-day basis unless the High Court finds a long adjournment absolutely necessary after recording the reasons.

Further, Section 86(7) of the Act states that every election petition should be tried as expeditiously as possible and an endeavour should be made to conclude the trial within six months from the date when the petition was filed.

“Hence, the returned candidate has no right to delay the filing of the counter statement and consequently delay the trial proceedings.

“The third respondent (Mr. Kumar) is duty-bound to show his faithfulness to this honourable court by filing the counter statement without any delay and face the trial,” he argued. Replying to it, counsel for the MP undertook to file his counter statement without fail within three weeks, and urged the court to adjourn the case till then.

In the meantime, advocate Niranjan Rajagopalan, representing the Election Commission, informed the court that as a matter of prudence, the commission keeps the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) related to cases pending in courts in safe custody, and does not use them for other elections without the express permission of the courts.

Stating that thousands of EVMS used in Theni Parliamentary constituency remain in safe custody, the counsel sought permission to use them in other elections. Mr. Arun said he had no objection to releasing the EVMs since the election petitioner had not raised any ground such as irregularities in the counting of votes that were cast in his constituency.

However, since the judge was hearing the case through video conferencing from the Madurai Bench of the High Court, where he had been deputed for three months beginning from December 2, and since the case bundle was not available over there, he decided to take a call on releasing the EVMs during the next hearing of the case.

In his plaint, the election petitioner, a 38-year-old mechanical engineer, recalled that Mr. Kumar had defeated his nearest rival candidate E.V.K.S. Elangovan of the Congress by a margin of over 76,000 votes and attributed the victory to several alleged electoral malpractices such as distribution of saris, dhotis, sweet boxes, liquor and cash.

The petitioner also claimed to have personally witnessed the distribution by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam partymen and contended that such bribing of voters had materially affected the result of the election. He also accused some election officials of acting hand in glove with the ruling partymen and failing to take action despite specific complaints.

Referring to the ECI having rescinded the poll notification for Vellore parliamentary constituency, following complaints of large scale distribution of money, during the same time, the petitioner said, the same yardstick should have been applied to Theni constituency too.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:38:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/hc-grants-final-opportunity-to-theni-mp-to-file-counter/article30280739.ece

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