Providing false information about educational qualification not “corrupt practice” U/S 123 of RP Law: Allahabad High Court

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The Allahabad High Court found that false information concerning the level of education of a candidate in the elections cannot be called a “corrupt practice” within the meaning of paragraph (2) or (4) of article 123 of the RP law.

The bench of Judge Raj Beer Singh further observed that information regarding a candidate’s qualifications is not vital and useful information for the voter and therefore, it cannot be said that any inconsistency or error in a candidate’s affidavit regarding the candidate’s educational qualification would constitute a fraudulent practice.

The Court also held that the concealment of electricity contributions or housing loans by a candidate would not qualify as an act of corruption within the meaning of Article 123 of the RP Law either.

The case in brief

In February 2017, the UP state elections were in which the petitioner (Anugrah Narayan Singh/Indian National Congress) as good as Respondent (Harsh Vardhan Bajpayee/BJP) contested the election in Constituency 262 Allahabad City North and the respondent was declared elected.

Challenging his elections, the petitioner filed the Instant Electoral Petition under article 80/81 of the law on the representation of the people on the grounds that he concealed the facts regarding outstanding electricity royalties and other debts and also provided false information regarding his educational qualifications and thus, the same amount of corrupt practice.

While awaiting the election petition, the Legislative Assembly was dissolved in February/March 2022 after the end of the five-year term, in view of this, the respondent filed an application seeking an instruction according to which the election petition may be dismissed as unsuccessful.

However, counsel for the Claimant argued that since the Respondent had committed an act of corruption within the meaning of Articles 123(2) and 123(4) of the Intellectual Property Law and thus, the election petition must be pursued, as the respondent may result in several disqualifications, including a ban on contesting an election for a period of six years.

Court’s observations

Taking into account several landmark decisions of the Supreme Court, the High Court observed that when the term of the disputed election expired and thereafter a new election was held and if the allegations made by the petitioner do not constitute a corrupt practicethen such an electoral petition could be rejected.

In this case, the Court noted that the charges against the Respondent (BJP Candidate) were that he failed to disclose his responsibilities as well as a correct degree in his affidavit of appointment, and that he thus hindered the free exercise of the electoral rights of voters.

However, the Court observed that the mere fact that the said electrical connection was installed in the property belonging to the respondent would not suffice to demonstrate that the respondent concealed the alleged liability.

The Court also noted that no such document had been presented by the petitioner to prove that a certificate of collection had been issued against the respondent.

In this case, there is no documentary evidence that said electrical connection was in the defendant’s name or that the purported salvage certificate was issued against the plaintiff. There is no such discovery [in the apex Court’s decision in Kisan Shankar Kathore v. Arun Dattatray Sawant And Ors., SCC 14 (2014) 162] that the concealment of electricity royalties would amount to a corrupt practice referred to in Article 123 of the RP Law. Even on the basis of the said case law, the allegation regarding the non-disclosure of electricity fees and the amount of the loan would not constitute a corrupt practice.“, added the Court.

With regard to the applicant’s claim that false information was provided by the respondent regarding his degree, the Court took into account the decisions of the Supreme Court in the cases of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties V UOI AIR 2003 SC 2363 as good as Kuldeep Nayar and Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors., 2006(7) SCC 1and observed thus:

… anomalies regarding the educational qualification indicated in the respondent’s affidavit or even false information regarding the respondent’s education, can hardly be qualified as a “corrupt practice” within the meaning of subsection (2) or (4) Section 123 RP Act. Further, for the sake of discussion, even assuming that the respondent does not hold an MBA degree, which he demonstrated in his affidavit filed during the election nomination to said constituency in 2012, this cannot be a ground that it would constitute a corrupt practice in respect of the next election in 2017.”

In this context, noting that the allegations of corrupt practices not being thus proven, the electoral request was likely to be rejected as having been rendered unsuccessful, the Court rejected the plea.

Case Title – Anugrah Narayan Singh vs Harsh Vardhan Bajpayee [ELECTION PETITION No. – 10 of 2017]

Case quote: 2022 LiveLaw (AB) 459

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