LAXMI SINGH AND OTHERS VERSUS REKHA SINGH AND OTHERS
In the Zila Panchayat of Prayagraj of Uttar Pradesh, on the 1st of October, 64 out of the 92 elected members moved a motion of no confidence against Panchayat Adhyaksha, Ms Rekha Singh (respondent).
The District Judge of Allahabad had the Additional District Judge of Allahabad to act as the Presiding Officer in the meeting of the Zila Panchayat summoned to consider the Motion.
In the meeting of the Zila Panchyat held on 25th October 2018, forty-eight out of fifty-one members present had voted in favour of the Motion of no confidence.
On challenge by the respondent, the High Court vide the impugned judgment dated 13th March 2019, set aside the minutes of the Zila Panchayat meeting dated 25th October 2018 on the ground that some of the members had violated the rule of secrecy of the ballot. Reliance of the same was placed on the CCTV footage that was played in the Court, to observe that some of the members had displayed the ballot papers or by their conduct revealed the manner in which they had voted
Challenging the above finding, the Petitioner submitted that in ‘S. Raghbir Singh Gill v. S. Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Others’ under the Section 94 of the Representation of People Act it was held that “a privilege in favor of the voter is that no one can compel him to disclose for whom she had voted but the privilege ends when the voter decides to waive the privilege and instead volunteers to disclose as to whom she had voted.”
Whether the principle of secrecy of Ballots is an Important Postulate of democracy
The court held that all of the above cases cited by the Petitioners pertain to the RP Act and the Rules made thereunder. “It is a trite position of law that when it comes to the interpretation of statutory provisions relating to election law, jurisprudence on the subject mandates strict construction of the provisions”. It also held an election contest is not an action at law or a suit in equity but purely a statutory proceeding, provision for which have to be strictly construed.
The court observed that one of the fundamental principles of the election law is the maintenance of free and fair elections and the principle of secrecy of ballots is an important postulate of constitutional democracy whose aim is the achievement of this goal.
Apex court held that the voting should be freshly at a meeting of the Zila Panchayat by way of the secret ballot with the District Judge, Allahabad himself or his nominee Additional District Judge, Allahabad, acting as the Presiding Officer.
Author: Anubhuti Agrawal,
Jagran Lakecity University,Bhopal