The Supreme Court on Monday set aside a Karnataka High Court’s judgement dismissing an election petition by BJP leader A Manju at “threshold” on “hyper-technical ground” against winning candidate fielded jointly by JD(S) and Congress, Prajwal Revanna, from Hassan Lok Sabha constituency.
Prajwal, a grandson of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, was accused of resorting to corrupt practices by allegedly not disclosing his complete assets in his poll affidavit.
A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh set aside the high court’s decision of January 17, 2020. The high court had opined that the petition by Manju was not supported by an affidavit in Form 25, as prescribed under Rule 94A of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, even though there were allegations of corrupt practices.
“Whether the violation of rules is made out by Prajwal or not would be a matter of trial but certainly not a matter to be shut out at the threshold,” the bench said.
The court asked the high court to examine the matter afresh as more than two and half years had already elapsed since the polls.
The court also permitted Manju to file an appropriate affidavit within 15 days.
“Further proceedings in the election petition are required to be taken up urgently as almost two and a half years have gone on the preliminary skirmishes rather than the meat of the matter, which we are sure the single judge of the high court would so do,” the bench said.
The HC had termed Manju’s plea as “not maintainable” for it was filed without an affidavit and thus, incomplete.
The top court said the single judge of the high court, examining the election petition, ought to have granted an opportunity to the appellant to file an affidavit in support of the petition in Form 25 in addition to the already existing affidavit filed with the election petition.
In its judgement, the top court noted that the primary plea taken by Manju is largely that success in the elections was obtained by concealment of material, which would have been germane in determining the opinion of the electorate.
“In effect, were such material to be available with the electorate, they would have exercised another option on the basis of it. However, while the requirements to be met in the election petition may be technical in nature, they are not hyper-technical,” the bench said.
The court did not agree to a contention by Prajwal that permitting an affidavit to be filed at a later stage would provide an opportunity for the embellishment of the case and defeat the statutory requirement. The nature of allegations was related to undisclosed profits from commercial operations through a partnership, and receipt of money from a sitting Rajya Sabha member. The allegations were made without disclosing any sources of information by way of an affidavit in Form 25, Prajwal’s counsel submitted.
Prajwal was declared the winner with 6,76,606 votes. Manju came was the runner-up, with 5,35,282 votes.
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