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Justice Dipak Misra cites Winston Churchill to direct speedy disposal of election petitions

SC, Churchill back the little man with a little pencil
SC, Churchill back the little man with a little pencil

A Supreme Court bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant today invoked Sir Winston Churchill through late Justice VR Krishna Iyer, to direct the high court of Manipur at Imphal to decide expeditiously the election petition against Mairembam Prithviraj, elected from the Moirang assembly constituency of Bishnupur district, Manipur, in the election held on 28 January 2012.

The NCP candidate, Pukhrem Sharatchandra Singh, who lost the election, had filed the petition in the high court. Aggrieved by the liberal adjournments granted by the high court in the case, the petitioner sought the Supreme Court’s intervention.

In his petition, Pukhrem alleged that Prithviraj had filed a forged affidavit with regard to his educational qualification. The Returning Officer, after hearing Pukhrem, had declined to reject Prithviraj’s nomination. Pukhrem also alleged that Prithviraj adopted dilatory tactics ingeniously to procrastinate the hearing of the petition in the high court.

Even in the Supreme Court, after issue of notice, Prithviraj was not represented at the first hearing. The law requires that endeavour shall be made to conclude the trial within six months from the date on which the election petition is presented to the high court. Justice Dipak Misra, who authored the judgment, observed that the legislative intent is clearly not to allow the parties to take resort to unnecessary adjournments or file vexatious applications.

“The elected candidate has been taking time at his own pleasure and leisure and filing applications as he desired giving vent to his whim and fancy and the court has granted adjournment in an extremely liberal manner”, Justice Misra said.

The interesting highlight of this judgment is that Justice Misra has equated expeditious disposal of election petitions with purity of democracy itself, by relying on a few observations in earlier judgments of the court.

The significant observation cited is that of Justice Krishna Iyer in Mohinder Singh Gill vs the Chief Election Commissioner (1978) in which Justice Iyer quoted Sir Winston Churchill as saying:

At the bottom of all tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper – no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of the point

The non-framing of the issues by the high court in this case, even after three years of filing the petition, led the Supreme Court to invoke Winston Churchill, through Justice Krishna Iyer.

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