Pasting Order On Door Not Enough, Karnataka Court Tells Political Parties

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The High Court of Karnataka has issued guidelines to political parties on how to communicate directions to its elected members.
After 35 years, the State has failed to frame rules under the Karnataka Local Authorities (Prohibition of Defection) Act, 1987. In a litigation involving elected members of the Town Municipal Council, Mahalingapura, the court deemed it fit to issue the guidelines till the State framed the necessary rules.

The guidelines issued by Justice NS Sanjay Gowda say a political party or the person authorised by it has to serve a copy of the direction to its members about acting in a particular manner at least 5 days before the meeting is convened. This holds good for Whip issued by the parties on voting in a particular manner.

The elected members of the party “would thus have the option of seeking permission to act contrary to the direction and thus not be subjected to disqualification under the Act,” the guidelines say.

Another guideline is that no proceedings for disqualification shall be initiated against the elected members if the political party’s direction is not communicated to the authority empowered to convene the meeting of the elected body.

A political party’s direction should be communicated to the elected member by the empowered authority within 5 days preceding the meeting. If the notices are served in the same manner relating to the convening of the meeting, such service would be deemed service.

Service of communication can be by courier or by email to the elected members giving them at least 5 days to seek for permission to vote contrary to the direction.

The guidelines were issued after a petition was filed by Savita, Chandini and Godavari, all members of the Mahalingapur Town Municipal Council from the BJP.

The elections for the post of president and vice-president of the council were held in November, 2020. Before this, a meeting of the elected councilors of the BJP was convened by the party soon after. At the meeting Snehal Shivanand Angadi was declared the official candidate for president and Laxmi Mahalingappa Muddapur was selected as the official vice-presidential candidate.

The three members (petitioners in the case) were not present in the meeting and the party’s direction to its elected members to vote for the official candidates was communicated to them by way of affixing the direction on the doors of their houses.

In the election, Savita and Chandini contested against the official candidates of the BJP for the post of president and vice-president respectively. Both of them secured 10 votes each which was the same as the votes secured by the official candidates. Due to the tie, the election was decided by way of tossing a coin. Savita lost while Chandini won. A complaint to disqualify them for casting their votes against the official candidates was filed. The Deputy Commissioner (DC), after an enquiry, disqualified them as councillors. This was challenged by them in the High Court.

The court said, “Mere pasting of the Whip on the doors of the petitioners’ houses by way of affixture would not be sufficient to hold that the Whip has been served on the petitioners”. It said it had to be served in “the manner known to like i.e., RPAD and courier or by personal service.” The Court also held that the DC had failed to establish that the councillors had acted in contrary to the direction issued by the political party. The petition was allowed and the disqualification order of the DC quashed.

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