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Supreme Court Affirms Trial Validity for Election Petition Against K Babu Over Use of Lord Ayyappa’s Pictures in Voting Slips

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Published on: February 13, 2024 at 00:13 IST

The Supreme Court, ruled that the election petition filed by CPI(M) leader M Swaraj challenging Congress MLA K Babu’s victory in the 2021 assembly elections is triable under the Representation of People Act, 1951.

Justices Aniruddha Bose and PV Sanjay Kumar, acknowledging the High Court’s findings, stated that a triable issue under Section 123(3) of the Act was established, thereby endorsing the Kerala High Court’s decision.

Swaraj, who contested against Babu in the 2021 assembly polls, sought the nullification of Babu’s election, alleging the use of corrupt practices that influenced the results by appealing to Hindu voters based on religion.

Babu, in response, raised preliminary objections before the High Court, but the trial proceeded. Dissatisfied, Babu approached the Supreme Court.

The Division Bench acknowledged the High Court’s observations on the voting slips featuring Lord Ayyappa’s picture, concluding that using religious symbols for electoral advantage constitutes a corrupt practice under Section 123(3) of the Act.

The Court clarified that while alleged statements by Swaraj did not automatically qualify as corrupt practices, leveraging religious symbols in the election did.

One of the preliminary objections raised was the insufficient number of authenticated copies filed, as per Rule 212 of the Rules of the High Court of Kerala, 1971.

The Supreme Court, however, ruled that Rule 212’s additional requirements should not be read into Section 81(3) of the Act, which mandates three authenticated copies solely for the court’s use.

The Court dismissed the objection, emphasizing that compliance with the statutory provision is clear and should not be misinterpreted.

Regarding the objection about furnishing true copies, the court found the appellant’s statement lacking elaboration and dismissed the appeal, finding no merit in the objections raised by Babu.

The case, titled K. Babu v. M. Swaraj, is significant in clarifying the triability of election petitions and the use of religious symbols in electoral campaigns.

Case Title: K. Babu v. M. Swaraj, SLP (C) No. 15320/2023