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Indian Case Summary

Dev Kanta Barooah vs Golok Chandra Baruah & Ors on 12 February, 1970 – Case Summary

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In the case of Dev Kanta Barooah vs Golok Chandra Baruah & Ors on 12 February, 1970, the Supreme Court of India was called upon to adjudicate on a matter involving allegations of corrupt practices during an election. The case was heard by a bench comprising Justice Bhargava and Justice Sikri.

Facts of the Case

The appellant, Dev Kanta Barooah, was declared the winner of the 1967 General Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Assam. However, his victory was challenged by the first respondent, Golok Chandra Baruah, on various grounds. One of the main allegations was that false statements about Baruah’s personal character had been published with Barooah’s consent, constituting a corrupt practice under section 123(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

The contentious statements were contained in a leaflet that was published by the Nowgong District Congress Election Committee. The leaflet contained various allegations about Baruah’s educational qualifications, his tenure as Chairman of a Municipality, and his political conduct. It was alleged that these statements were false and were reasonably calculated to prejudice Baruah’s prospects of being elected.

Issues before the Court

The main issue before the court was whether the statements in the leaflet constituted a corrupt practice under section 123(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. This provision penalizes the publication of false statements relating to the personal character or conduct of a candidate, if the statements are reasonably calculated to prejudice the candidate’s chances of being elected.

Court’s Observations and Ruling

The court observed that in an election, it is open to a candidate to show that his rival candidate is lacking in knowledge and education and that he is not capable of managing the affairs in a public body. The court found that the statements in the leaflet did not amount to false statements affecting the personal character or conduct of Baruah. The court held that the leaflet was intended to convey to the readers that Baruah’s administration as Chairman of the Municipality was unsatisfactory, indicating that he was not a good administrator. The leaflet was not intended to convey to the voters any reflection on the personal character of Baruah.

The court also found that the allegations about Baruah’s political conduct did not amount to false statements. The court noted that the expressions used in the leaflet, although harsh, were not such as to lead the voters to think that Baruah had a low moral character.

In conclusion, the court held that the publication of the leaflet did not constitute a corrupt practice under section 123(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Therefore, the court set aside the decision of the High Court and upheld the election of the appellant, Dev Kanta Barooah.