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“No Constitutional issue needed further adjudication”
CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Monday treated as closed a writ petition taken up suo motu by the court on March 23 on a news item relating to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's statement that the Election Commission has imposed “excessive restrictions” for the Assembly elections slated for April 13.
On March 23, a Division Bench headed by Justice Elipe Dharma Rao had taken suo motu cognisance of a report in The Hindu on the Chief Minister's statement and formulated certain issues for consideration including whether the EC could unilaterally announce the election schedule and also order transfer of officials in general and the DGP in particular.
It had directed the Registry to treat it as a writ petition and posted it for March 28 for further hearing. On the Chief Justice (CJ) M.Y. Eqbal's direction, it was placed before the First Bench.
Treating the matter as closed, the First Bench comprising the CJ and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam said that in the light of the law laid down by the Supreme Court and other decisions, it was of the definite opinion that no constitutional issue needed further adjudication by the High Court in the suo motu writ petition.
Once the election was notified, it was within the EC's exclusive domain to fix the date of election as also a suitable date for declaring the result.
The High Court, under Article 226 of the Constitution, cannot interfere with such decision of the EC, except in the rarest of the rare case as pointed out by the Supreme Court.
In his counter on behalf of the EC, filed through senior counsel G. Rajagopalan, Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar said the Commission had detailed discussions with State Government officials on December 30 last year. It also had meetings with national and State political parties and took their views about the elections.
The State Government was fully aware that the elections would be held either in April or May. Regarding officials' transfer, the EC said the election notification was issued on March 19. As per the law, all officials designated for conducting elections were deemed to be on deputation to the Commission for the period during which they were so employed. Such officers and staff were subject to the Commission's control, superintendence and discipline for the period.
The EC was an expert in the field of conducting elections. Its decisions were not justiciable, the counter said.
The First Bench said a High Court judge's power to initiate writ proceedings suo motu, in public interest, should be exercised and regulated in accordance with High Court rules and norms keeping in view the administrative instructions and roster of sitting.
It would not be proper that as and when any news item was published the court would take notice of it and treat it as writ petition suo motu without referring the matter to the Chief Justice.
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