High Court quashes TNSEC’s order for re-election in Kumalankulam panchayat

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Tamil Nadu State Election Commission (TNSEC) cannot be allowed to conduct re-election in a local body where attempts had been made to subvert the election process after declaration of results, the Madras High Court has ruled.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh held so while setting aside an order passed by TNSEC on June 22 for conducting re-election in Kumalankulam village panchayat in Keerapalayam Panchayat Union of Cuddalore district.

The judge directed the TNSEC to declare the writ petitioner R. Jayalakshmi as the winning candidate since she had secured the highest number of 2,524 votes after contesting the elections using the auto rickshaw symbol allotted to her.

He pointed that another contestant by name Vijayalakshmi had contested in lock and key symbol and secured only 1,478 votes. However, after declaring the results, the officials had interchanged the symbols between the two contestants in one of the forms.

“This is a clear after thought and an apparent attempt made to dislodge the election process for reasons best known to the official respondents,” the judge said and ruled that it does not call for cancelling the entire election and ordering fresh polls.

Though the TNSEC as well as the State Government contended that the petitioner could only file an election petition and not a writ petition, the judge rejected their contention on the ground that the petitioner had challenged only TNSEC’s cancellation order and not the election process.

“This court cannot mechanically relegate the parties to file an election petition when the monstrosity of the situation apparently establishes subversion of the election process by adopting illegal means. These are exceptional cases where this court has to step in and exercise its writ jurisdiction and prevent such subversion of election process.

“The case on hand clearly falls under this category. Therefore, the plea taken on the side of the respondents regarding the alternative remedy available to the petitioner, under the Panchayat Act, is held to be not sustainable,” the judge said.

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