Judgement of the day: Laxmi Singh v. Rekha Singh

Facts:

1. On 1st October 2018 the Zila Panchayat, Prayagraj, U.P moved a motion of no confidence against the Panchayat adhyaksha Ms. Rekha Singh with the majority of 64 out of 92 elected members.

2. The District Judge, Allahabad had nominated the Additional District Judge, Allahabad to act as the presiding officer in the meeting of the Zila Panchayat summoned to consider the motion.

3. On 25th October 2018, in the meeting of the Zila Panchayat 48 out of 51 member present had voted in favor of the motion, two members had voted against the motion and one vote rejected as invalid.

4. On challenge by respondent the high court of judicature at Allahabad, vide the impugned judgment dated 13th March 2019, has set aside the minutes of the Zila Panchayat meeting dated 25th October 2018 approving the motion, on the ground that some of the members violated the rule of secrecy of the ballot. Reliance 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 how they had voted.


Bench: – Mr. A.M Khanwilkar, Mr. Dinesh Maheshwari, Mr. Sanjay Khanna


Judgement:

The SC observed that the reasoning of the HC for applicability of voluntary waiver of secrecy and its impact of a free and fair election in the instant case was “something lacking”.

"One of the fundamental principles of election law pertains to the maintenance of free and fair elections ensuring the purity of elections. the principle of secrecy of the ballot is an important postulate of constitutional democracy whose aim is the achievement of this goal".

On the based on the consent of both the parties, the SC ordered that a re-voting of the motion be held by way of the secret ballot with the District Judge, Allahabad himself or his nominee additional District Judge, Allahabad, acting as the presiding officer on a date and time to be fixed by the District Judge within a period of two months from the date of the judgment.

“This would in our opinion, be a just and fair direction in the factual matrix of the present case given the respective contentions and stand of the parties”. It is the right of voters to conduct a free and fair election, no volunteer can ask about their vote, the voter has right to seal their mouth regarding it.“Even in the cases involving election provision to prevent corrupt practices the court cannot bridge the gap and supply an apparent omission by applying principles of common law and equity”.

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