Curbing the practice of frivolous election petitions: Amlokchand Chhazed vs. Bhagwandas Arya & Ors

In this 5-minute read, you will learn how the rival candidate in elections filed a fabricated election petition alleging corrupt practises on the part of winning candidate and the Supreme Court correctly identified the frivolous petition.

TITLE

Amolakchand Chhazed vs. Bhagwandas Arya & Ors.

CITATION

 AIR 1977 SC 813

COURT

Supreme Court of India

JUDGES/CORAM

Justice A.C. Gupta, Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice S. Murtaza Fazal Ali  

DATE OF THE JUDGMENT

17.11.1976

Introduction

Election petitions alleging corrupt practices have become very common in India. These corrupt practices range from appealing to religious sentiments to buying votes and defaming the opposing candidates. The election petitions are proceedings of a quasi-criminal nature. The onus to prove the allegations beyond reasonable doubt, is on the person challenging the election,. The present case was an election petition on the ground of defamation of the other contesting candidate by the successful candidate.

Facts

The facts of the case are as follows: The Appellant, Amolakchand Chhazed, was elected to Barwaha Assembly of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly. Polls took place on March 8, 1972 and in results on March 12, the Appellant won against the only contestant, who was one of the Respondents-Vimalehand Jain. One voter from the Barwaha constituency, Bhagwan Das, filed an election petition before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh praying for declaration of Appellant’s election as void on the ground of corrupt practices.

When the case reached Supreme Court by way of an appeal, the Court upheld the election of Amolakchand, as no sufficient evidence could be gathered regarding his alleged corrupt practices.

Issues

The main issue to be decided in the present case was: Whether or not Amolakchand Chazzed engaged in corrupt practises days before his election.

Contentions from both sides

The Petitioners-Respondents contended that:

  1. The Appellant and his men, at the former’s instance and in his presence, distributed in different villages in the constituency, a leaflet and copies of a weekly paper named PRACHAND containing statements regarding the personal character and conduct of the Respondent which the Appellant knew to be false and did not believe to be true.
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The Appellant on the other hand claimed that:

  1. He did not either himself or by his workers distribute any of the two documents anywhere; and
  2. After his defeat, the Respondent himself got those leaflets and documents printed and set up a false story to have the election set aside.

Summary of court decisions and judgement

After the elections, one Bhagwan Das presented an election petition before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, alleging that the Appellant’s election was invalid due to corrupt election practices. The High Court allowed the petition and set aside the Appellant’s election after considering the allegations and witnesses presented before the Court.

In an appeal before the Supreme Court, the Court could not find enough evidence and credible testimonies to set aside the Appellant’s election. Thus, the three-judge bench of the Court set aside the High Court’s judgement and upheld the Appellant’s election to Barwaha constituency.

Analysis

It is well settled that the Supreme Court does not disturb the findings of fact recorded by the High Court in election cases  in an appeal before it, except for strong and cogent reasons. However, if these findings have been arrived at disregarding well-settled principles governing the approach to the evidence on record, the Court must come to its own conclusion on the evidence.

To arrive at its judgement in the present case, the Supreme Court heard numerous witnesses. These witnesses were residents of the villages where the documents were alleged to be distributed. A majority of these witnesses were associated with either parties of the Appellant and Respondent, and hence lacked the credibility of an independent witnesses.

Furthermore, there were numerous contradictions among the Respondents’ themselves which affected the credibility of their petition. Thus, the Court could not find any sufficient or convincing evidence. Hence, the Apex Court overruled the High Court’s decision.

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Conclusion

             The Supreme Court correctly overturned the High Court’s decision. There are numerous such instances where rivals engage in filing false and fabricated election petitions. The Parliament should introduce proper legislation to curb such frivolous election petitions on due investigation and examination by the Apex Court.

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