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Non-publication of final electoral roll will not affect polls: SC

By J. Venkatesan

New Delhi Oct. 7. Even as the Election Commission announced holding of elections to five State Assemblies, the Supreme Court has held that non-publication of the final electoral roll would not render a general election invalid in law.

A three-Judge Bench, comprising the Chief Justice, V.N. Khare, Justice Brijesh Kumar and Justice S. B. Sinha, gave the ruling while dismissing an appeal filed by an agent of a candidate who lost the Assembly elections held in May 2001 in Kozhikode constituency in Kerala.

The appeal by P.T. Rajan, was directed against a judgment of the Kerala High Court dismissing his petition challenging the election of T.P.M. Sahir, who won by a margin of 787 votes. Mr. Rajan had challenged the election on the ground that while the last date for acceptance of nomination papers was 3 p.m. on April 23, 2001, the final electoral roll was published only at 8 p.m. that day.

He alleged that between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on April 23, the names of 19,045 voters, most of them known supporters of the Left Democratic Front candidate were deleted from the voters list and 6,828 persons were illegally added and non-publication of the electoral rolls at 3 p.m. as per the Rules had materially affected the election result. The High Court dismissed the election petition and the present appeal was directed against this judgment.

Dismissing the appeal, the Bench said that the 1960 Rules under the Representation of the People Act, 1951, did not fix any time for publication of the electoral rolls. "On the other hand, Section 23 (3) of the Act categorically mandates that direction can be issued for revision of the electoral rolls by way of amendment in inclusion and deletion from the electoral rolls till the date specified for filing nomination," the Bench said.

The Bench was of the view that the person concerned would not be inconvenienced or in any way prejudiced only because the revised electoral roll in Form 16 was published a few hours later. The Bench said addition or deletion of names after the last date fixed for filing of nominations would not invalidate the entire election.

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