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Indian Case Summary

Arjun Panditrao Khotkar vs Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal on 14 July, 2020 – Case Summary

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In the case of Arjun Panditrao Khotkar vs Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal on 14 July, 2020, the Supreme Court of India was tasked with interpreting Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, in the context of two election petitions filed before the Bombay High Court. The petitions challenged the election of the appellant, Arjun Panditrao Khotkar, a member of the Shiv Sena party, to the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly in November 2014. The respondents alleged that Khotkar’s nomination papers were improperly accepted by the Returning Officer of the Election Commission, leading to a void election.

Facts of the Case

The respondents, including the defeated Congress (I) candidate Kailash Kishanrao Gorantyal, contended that Khotkar’s nomination papers were submitted after the stipulated time of 3.00 p.m. on 27.09.2014, which should have led to their rejection. To support this claim, they relied on video-camera arrangements made inside and outside the office of the Returning Officer. The respondents argued that the nomination papers were only offered at 3.53 p.m., clearly out of time. Despite a specific complaint made by Gorantyal, the Returning Officer maintained that the nomination forms had been filed within time.

Issues and Court Observations

The High Court ordered the Election Commission to produce the original video recordings, along with the necessary certificates, to determine the exact time at which the nomination forms were submitted. The Election Commission complied, providing video recordings and a certificate regarding the CDs/VCDs. However, the High Court found that the certificate did not meet the requirements of Section 65B(4) of the Evidence Act.

The High Court then considered whether the CDs could be treated as an original record, concluding that they could not and therefore had to be proved by means of secondary evidence. The court found that the Election Commission had intentionally avoided giving a certificate as required by Section 65B(4) of the Evidence Act. However, the court also noted that the Returning Officer had provided substantive evidence that the conditions mentioned in Section 65B of the Evidence Act were fulfilled. Therefore, the court held that there was “substantial compliance” with the provision of Section 65B of the Evidence Act, and the CDs/VCDs were admissible in evidence.

Based on this evidence, the High Court found that the nomination forms by the RC had been improperly accepted. The election of the RC was therefore declared void in the impugned judgment.

Conclusion

The case of Arjun Panditrao Khotkar vs Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal raises important questions about the interpretation of Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and the admissibility of electronic records in legal proceedings. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will likely have significant implications for future cases involving similar issues.