New Delhi: Nomination papers of election candidates cannot be rejected without proper scrutiny and reasoning by returning officers as it may led to "grave consequences" of ensuring victory of a particular contender, the Supreme Court has held.
"We are of the opinion that when a nomination paper is presented it is a bounden duty of the returning officer to receive the nomination, peruse it, point out the defects, if any, and allow candidates to rectify the defects and when the defects are not removed then alone the question of rejection of nomination would arise," the court said in a judgement.
"Any other view, in our opinion, will lead to grave consequences and the returning officers may start refusing to accept the nomination at the threshold which may ensure victory to a particular candidate at the election," it said.
A bench of justices HS Bedi and CK Prasad dismissed Karnataka MLA Nandiesha Reddy`s appeal challenging a petition filed in the state high court by Kavitha Mahesh, a candidate
whose nomination was rejected by the returning officer for KR Pura Assembly constituency polls held on May 10, 2008.
His election was challenged by Mahesh, inter alia, on the ground that her nomination was illegally rejected by the returning officer which rendered Reddy`s election void.
According to the aggrieved candidate, the returning officer rejected her nomination despite the fact that her nomination paper was endorsed by 10 electors and she was not furnished with the copies of the electoral rolls despite several representation. She submitted that on account of the
rejection of her nomination paper, Reddy`s election was easily faciliated.
The high court had admitted her petition and dismissed Reddy`s plea that it cannot be entertained.
Upholding the high court order, the apex court observed that any such arbitrary action by the returning officer portends serious peril to the election process.
"This is fraught with danger, difficult to fathom. Section 33(4) of the Act (RPA) casts duty on a returning officer to satisfy himself that the names and the electoral roll numbers of the candidates and their proposers as entered in the rolls.
"Here, in the present case, as stated earlier, the election petitioner has clearly averred that her nomination was subscribed by ten electors and presented before the returning officer. But the same was not received and rejected.
Thus one of the grounds for declaring the election to be void as provided under Section 100(1)(c)of the Act was specifically pleaded," Justice Prasad wrote in the judgement.
According to the court, an election petition can be summarily dismissed if it does not furnish the material facts to give rise to a cause of action.
"However, what are the material facts always depend upon the facts of each case and no rule of universal application is possible to be laid down in this regard," the bench ruled.