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Indian Case Summary

Ram Phal Kundu vs Kamal Sharma on 23 January, 2004 – Case Summary

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In the case of Ram Phal Kundu vs Kamal Sharma on 23 January 2004, the Supreme Court of India was presented with a complex legal dispute revolving around the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The case was presided over by a bench consisting of CJI, S.B. Sinha, and G.P. Mathur.

Facts of the Case

The case arose from an appeal by Ram Phal Kundu, the returned candidate, against the judgment and order dated 8.5.2003 of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. The High Court had allowed the election petition preferred by Kamal Sharma, thereby setting aside the election of Ram Phal Kundu from the 50-Safidon Assembly Constituency to the Haryana Vidhan Sabha. The High Court had also directed the Election Commission of India to hold a fresh election for the said constituency.

The Election Commission of India had issued a notification on 24.1.2000 calling upon the electors of Haryana to elect 90 members to the Haryana Vidhan Sabha, including that from the 50-Safidon Assembly Constituency. Ram Phal Kundu had filed his nomination paper as a candidate of the Indian National Lok Dal Party, while Kamal Sharma and Bachan Singh had both filed their nomination papers claiming to be candidates of the Indian National Congress Party. The Returning Officer accepted the nomination paper of Bachan Singh as the candidate of the Congress Party and rejected that of Kamal Sharma.

Issues in the Case

The primary issue in the case was the determination of who was the legitimate candidate of the Indian National Congress Party. Both Kamal Sharma and Bachan Singh had filed their nomination papers claiming to be the party’s candidate. The Returning Officer had accepted Bachan Singh’s nomination and rejected Kamal Sharma’s, leading to the latter filing an election petition under Sections 80, 81 read with Section 100 of the Act for setting aside the election of Ram Phal Kundu and for declaring his election as void.

Court’s Observations

The court observed that the main question requiring consideration was which of the two persons, namely, Kamal Sharma or Bachan Singh, had been set up by the Congress Party. The court referred to Paras 13 and 13A of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, which govern the situation. The court noted that while Form A has to be submitted to both the Returning Officer of the Constituency and to the Chief Electoral Officer of the State, there is no such requirement with regard to Form B. Form B has to be delivered only to the Returning Officer of the Constituency.

The court also observed that the Symbols Order has made a specific provision that Forms A and B have to be signed in ink only and signature by means of rubber stamp, etc. shall not be accepted. In terms of the language used in paras 13 and 13A of the Symbols Order, there is no requirement of putting the seal of the party in Forms A and B.

The court concluded that the evidence, which was all subsequent to the last date of filing of the nomination paper, could not be looked into in order to ascertain who had been set up as a candidate by the Congress Party. The court held that the Symbols Order laid down the complete procedure for determining whether a candidate has been set up by a political party.

The court also noted that the non-joining of Bachan Singh may not result in dismissal of the election petition in terms of Section 82 of the Act. However, in the absence of Bachan Singh having been joined as a party to the election petition, an extremely difficult burden had been placed upon the appellant Ram Phal Kundu, who belonged to

a rival party (Lok Dal), to lead evidence regarding the internal affairs of the Congress Party and to show that the nomination made in favor of Kamal Sharma had been subsequently rescinded and the party had set up Bachan Singh as its official candidate.

The Verdict

The court’s verdict was based on the interpretation of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968. The court held that the Symbols Order laid down the complete procedure for determining whether a candidate has been set up by a political party. The court concluded that the evidence, which was all subsequent to the last date of filing of the nomination paper, could not be looked into in order to ascertain who had been set up as a candidate by the Congress Party.

The court also noted that the non-joining of Bachan Singh may not result in dismissal of the election petition in terms of Section 82 of the Act. However, in the absence of Bachan Singh having been joined as a party to the election petition, an extremely difficult burden had been placed upon the appellant Ram Phal Kundu, who belonged to a rival party (Lok Dal), to lead evidence regarding the internal affairs of the Congress Party and to show that the nomination made in favor of Kamal Sharma had been subsequently rescinded and the party had set up Bachan Singh as its official candidate.

Significance of the Case

The case of Ram Phal Kundu vs Kamal Sharma is significant as it highlights the complexities involved in the nomination and election process in India. It underscores the importance of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 in determining the legitimacy of a candidate set up by a political party. The case also emphasizes the role of the Returning Officer in accepting or rejecting nomination papers and the subsequent implications of these decisions on the election process.

Furthermore, the case brings to light the challenges faced by the courts in adjudicating election disputes, particularly when there are allegations of wrongful rejection of nomination papers and disputes over who is the legitimate candidate of a political party. The case serves as a reminder of the importance of adhering to the prescribed procedures and deadlines in the nomination and election process to ensure a fair and transparent electoral system.