Bombay High Court held that candidates who are elected unopposed in the local body elections should also tender accounts of election expenditure made by them.
The judgment was given by a bench of Justices Sunil P Deshmukh and Sv Gangapurwala.
The court stated that in the recent times candidates publicize their candidacy in elaborate displays with processions, advertisements, pasting of a number of cut outs which incur substantial expenses.
Therefore substantial expenditure is still incurred by a candidate who faces no other candidate in an election.
“It, thus, cannot be said in all the cases there would be no election expenses in contest free or unopposed elections and candidates getting elected unopposed, would stand exempted from tendering election expenses,” . The court held.
The matter was initially heard by a single-judge who then referred the question to a larger bench after framed the following question, “Whether a candidate elected unopposed, is required to tender his accounts of election expenditure under Section 14B (1) of the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act, Section 16 (1- D) of the Maharashtra Municipalities Nagar Panchayats and Townships Act 1965 and section 15B (1) under the Maharashtra Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samities Act, 1961, in view of the order dated 07.02.1995 and the Government Resolution dated 15.10.2016? ”
Appearing for the petitioners, Advocate Jiwan J Patil submitted that the provisions of the Village Panchayat Act were introduced to prevent candidates from misusing money and argued that non furnishing of accounts within stipulated time would not in all scenarios entail disqualification.
He further said that in order to maintain the election of the person democratically elected the vested discretion by the election authority must be employed.
“Non Submission of accounts while there are no election expenses worth the name, noncompliance of procedure, may have to be appropriately construed without disturbing election of a person who has been democratically elected” argued Mr Patil.
The division bench stated upon interpreting the provisions laid down under the Maharashtra Village Panchayat Act that the regulations were introduced to check the financial dealings of the candidate and to sustain the purity in elections.
“Money, its power and influence have strong propensity to sub serve the cause of privileged class putting them in distinctly advantageous position, “The bench stated.
The court further stated that the provisions came to be due to the “unethical, unlawful and corrupt use of money to influence, entice, and induce people rather corrupting their conscience and/or may be a case to take disadvantage of poor condition of people forcing them to surrender their conscience and obtain votes”.
It was stated by the court that the judgment came based on the specific facts of the case and no other judgment had stated that in all cases of unopposed elections accounts are not required to be furnished.
“It, thus, cannot be said in all the cases that, there would be no election expenses in contest free or unopposed elections and candidates getting elected unopposed, would stand exempted from tendering election expenses,” the Court held.