Ghasi Ram Vs. Dal Singh & Ors
 INSC 31 (7 February 1968)
07/02/1968 HIDAYATULLAH, M.
CITATION: 1968 AIR 1191 1968 SCR (3) 102
F 1969 SC1024 (11) R 1971 SC 241 (9) R 1971
SC2025 (56) R 1975 SC1612 (50) R 1975 SC1634 (8) F 1975 SC1718 (9) RF 1976 SC
27 (14) RF 1976 SC1599 (6) RF 1978 SC1162 (5) R 1980 SC 701 (14) E 1990 SC1889
Representation of the People Act, 1951, s.
123(1), (2) & (7)--Elected candidate being Minister before election using
discretionary funds to remove public grievances--If corrupt practice.--Spending
funds for general public good only just before election--Evil practice.
The first respondent was elected to the
Haryana State Legislative, Assembly at the election held on February 19, 1967.
The appellant challenged his election by an election petition on the grounds,
inter alia, that prior to his election, the respondent, who was a Minister in
the State Government and had available to him certain discretionary funds, had
used these funds to bribe the voters; it was alleged that prior to the election
be had visited several villages in his constituency and the voters had told him
that they would not vote for him as he had done nothing for their uplift: he
had therefore made various discretionary grants to Gram Panchayats. given funds
for the construction of a sacred tank in one village, for building public
utility works, community centers and for repairs of Harijan well in different
villages. It was also alleged that be had used his position as Minister to
favour some Of the villagers by providing certain irrigation facilities in some
villages with a view to securing support for his candidature. The High Court
dismissed the election petition.
On appeal to this Court.
HELD : On the evidence before it, the High
Court had rightly dismissed the petition.
The law requires that a corrupt practice
involving bribery must be fully established. The evidence must show clearly
that the promise or gift directly or indirectly was made to an elector to vote
or refrain from voting at an election.
The position of a Minister is difficult. it
is obvious that he cannot cease to function when his election is due. He must
of necessity attend to the grievances, otherwise he must fail. He must improve
the image of his administration before the public. If every one of his official
acts done bona fide is to be construed against him and an ulterior motive is
spelled out of them, the administration must necessarily come to a stand-still.
[109 F-G] In the present case the money was not distributed among the voters
directly but was given to Panchayats and the public at large. It was to he used
for the good of those for and those against the candidate. No doubt this had
the effect of pushing forward the respondent's claims but that was inevitable
even if no money was spent but good administration changed the people's
condition. it could not therefore be held that there was any corrupt practice.
If there was good evidence that the Minister bargained directly or indirectly
for votes. The result might have been different, but there was no such
evidence. [110 B-C] Case law referred to.
Obiter . Election is something which must be
conducted fairly. To arrange to spend money on the eve of elections in different
constituencies, 103 although for general public good is, when all is said, and
done,, an evil practice, even if it may not be corrupt practice. The dividing
line between an evil practice and a corrupt practice is a very thin one. It
should be understood that energy to do public good should be used not on the
eve of elections but much earlier and that even slight evidence might change
this evil practice into corrupt practice. Payments from discretionary grants on
the eve of elections should be avoided. [110 D-E]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 1632 of, 1967.
Appeal under s. 116-A of the Representation
of the Peoples Act, 1951 from the judgment and order dated September 12, 1967
of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Election Petition No. 24 of 1967.
Naunit Lal and B. P. Singh, for the
G. N. Dikshit and R. N. Dikshit, for
respondent No. 1.
The judgment of the Court was delivered by
Hidayatullah, J. The appellant Ghasi Ram was one of the candidates at the
General Elections from the Jclana Constituency of Haryana to the State
The respondents were other candidates. The
election took place on February 19, 1967 and the results were declared two days
later. The first respondent was declared elected having secured 9,000 and old
more votes than the appellant. The present appeal has been filed by the
appellant against the judgment of the High Court of Punjab, and Haryana at
Chandigarh, September 12, 1967, by which the election petition was ordered to
be dismissed. The petition was.
based on certain corrupt practices of the
answering respondent who, was. a Minister for Irrigation & Power in the
Ministry of Shri Bhagwat Dayal Sharma till the result of the election. He was
charged with having used his position as Minister in various ways to further
his own election.
The High Court on an examination of the'
evidence came to the conclusion that no corrupt practice was, in fact, proved
against him and the election could not be said to be, void.
Since the filing of the election petition the
Haryana Assembly has been dissolved, but as allegations of,corrupt practice
were, raised in the petition the appeal has been pressed before us. After
hearing learned counsel in the appeal we have reached the same. Conclusion as
the High Court and we find the appeal to be unsubstantial. We proceed to give
our reasons briefly after stating the facts on which the election petition was
The corrupt practices charged against the
answering respondent can be divided under three heads. The first is that he
used certain discretionery funds to bribe the voters. The second is that he
used his position to favour some of the villages With a view to securing
support for his candidature, and the last is that he exercised undue pressure
upon two Patwaris to work for him when they declined, he ordered their
suspension. We shall deal with these allegations in the same order.
After the new State of Haryana was
constituted on November 1, 1966, the Government of Haryana placed at the disposal
of the Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State and the Deputy Ministers certain
sums of money for distribution at their discretion. This was by a Resolution of
the Government in November, 1966 (Ex. RW 14/1). This position is admitted.
Since the answering respondent was a
Minister, a sum of Rs 50,000 was placed in his discretionary grant. From this
sum the answering respondent made his discretionary grants and a sum of Rs.
12,500 in the aggregate was paid by him for various purposes in his
constituency. The allegation is that he made this distribution as a bargain for
votes in several villages and this amounted to corrupt practice. The amount was
distributed by him between December 8, 1966 and January 9, 1967. In most cases
the money was paid after the poll but as promises were apparently made this
makes no difference to the allegation of corrupt practice. Section 123 lays
down what are to be regarded as corrupt practices and it inter alia provides
"123. Corrupt practices.-The following shall be deemed to be corrupt
practices for the purposes of this Act :(1) Bribery, that is to say,(A) any
gift, offer or promise by a candidate . . . . . of any gratification, to any
person whomsoever, with the object, directly or indirectly of inducing(a)..........................
(b) an elector to vote or refrain from voting
at an election (2) Undue influence, that is to say, any direct or indirect
interference or attempt to interfere on the part of the candidate
with................ the free exercise of any electoral right
(7) The obtaining or procuring or abetting or
tempting to obtain or procure by a candidate any assistance (other than the
giving vote) for the furtherance of the prospects of that candidate's election,
105 from any person in the service of the Government and belonging to any of
the following classes, namely ..........................
(f)revenue officers other than village revenue-officers
known as lamardars, malguzars, patels, deshmukhs or by any other name, whose
duty is to collect land revenue and who are remunerated by a share of,or
commission All the amount of land revenue collected by, them but who do not
discharge, any police functions; and ................................
A promise of a gift or offer is equally a
corrupt practice but the gift offer or promise must be made to an elector to
vote or refrain from voting at an election; and, similarly, undue influence and
obtaining or procuring of the service of any person in the service of the
be with the same intention. We have to bear
this in mind when we examine the three charges brought against the first
Under the first head of charges it is stated
that he promised a payment of Rs. 20,000 to the Grampanchayat, Igra;
Rs. 5,000 on February 13, 1967 for a sacred
tank in village Ram Rai; Rs. 1,000 on January 9, 1967 to the Grampanchayat,
Bahman was; Rs. 2,500 in December 1966 to the Grampanchayat, Bibipur and Rs.
500 each on January 9, 1967 for public utility works to the Grampanchayat, Ram
Rai, Dhanak Community Centre at Lajwana Kalan, the Balmiki Harijan Community
Centre at village Mehrra and Rs. 500 for the repair of a Harijan well at
Lajwana Khurd. It is said that before these grants were made the Minister
visited these several villages and the voters told him that they were not going
to vote for him as he had done nothing for their uplift and on his promising
the said sums the voters were won over with the result that the answering
respondent secured the bulk of the votes from these. villages The High Court
carefully considered the evidence led to prove these allegations and came to
the conclusion that it fell short of the requirements of s. 123 of the Act. It
is 'Contended before us that the High Court was in error in reaching this
conclusion both in fact and law. We shall first dispose of the facts before
proceeding to examine what we consider to be corrupt practice in this context.
The donation to the Grampanchayat, Igra is
attempted to be proved through the evidence of one Mehtab Singh (P.W. 10).
He stated that the answering 'respondent, as
Chairman of Block Samiti had promised Rs. 5,000 but had not paid it.
When he came L4 Sup. Cl/68-8 106 for
canvassing, the voters were unwilling to vote for him because he had not kept
his promise. He then persuaded them and promised to pay some money if they gave
him their support. The High Court pointed out that this witness was a
discharged Sub Inspector and the polling agent of the election petitioner. He
was found to be telling lies when he said that the amount was received 7 days
after the promise, because the record clearly showed that this money was paid
only in March, 1967, more than a month after the poll. Lakhi Ram (P.W. 5)
admitted that there was a village school which was lying incomplete and money
was needed for its completion. It will be noticed that this money was not paid
directly to any voter or voters: It was handed over to the Grampanchayat for
utilization. This meant that it would have gone to the benefit of those who
were going to support the answering respondent and also those who were opposed
to him. The High Court did hot believe the evidence that there was any bargain
for votes as required by the definition of corrupt practice. On a reading of
the evidence we are satisfied that the village community; asked him for help
and the answering respondent promised to help them to complete works of public
utility. The amount was paid after the election was over.
Similarly, the sum of Rs. 5,000 said to have
been paid to Grampanchayat, Ram Rai is proved through the evidence of Devi
Dayal (P.W. II) and Mangal singh (P.W. 12). This money was sanctioned on
December 8, 1966 even before the Congress had given ticket to the answering
respondent. The evidence here also does not show that there was any bargain for
votes. The two witnesses were proved to be hostile to the answering respondent.
Devi Dayal was his rival candidate in 1952 and had made several applications
against the answering-respondent. The application for the Congress ticket was
made by the answering respondent on December 6, 1966 and the grant being made
on December 8, 1966 the evidence of Devi Dayal that the grant was after the
nomination was definitely false. Mangal Singh is the editor of a weekly
journal, which published several complaints against the answering respondent.
The answering respondent stated that he had collected Rs. 25,000 for the sacred
tank even before he 'became Minister; that through his efforts a pucca road, a
dispensary, a veterinary hospital, a post office and water works were
established. He had also got a primary school upgraded. Ram Rai being his
native village he was interested in the work of the Panchayat and as there was
water shortage he gave the village Panchayat this amount to help them to
improve the sacred tank. The High Court did not find any evidence which would
bring the matter within S. 123. It declined to believe these hostile witnesses
and on a consideration of the evidence we are not satisfied that the conclusion
107 The sum of Rs. 1,000 was paid to the
Grampanchayat, Bahmanwas for. a primary school. This was a month or a month and
quarter before the election. This was sought to be proved through Ram Dutt
(P.W. 20). It is in evidence that Ram Dutt was Very friendly with the election
petitioner and even gave his truck for the use of the petitioner.
'Evidence further shows that the school
building was without a roof for some time and the children used to sit under
trees. We are satisfied that this amount cannot described as a bribe.
There was no evidence to prove the payment of
Rs. 2,500 to Bibipur and as none was brought to our notice this point was
rightly decided against the election petitioner.
The four sums of Rs. 500 each were paid for
improvement Of Community Centres. The attempt to prove that they were a part of
a bargain was discountenanced by the High Court. In respect, .of the amount
paid to Lajwana Kalan the evidence was. that of Ram Singh (P.W. 13)-, the
polling agentof the election petitioner, Shri Phula (P.W .14), whose demeanour
was commented upon by the learned Judge, and one of the candidates Mangeram
(P,.W. 19) and Jailal (P.W. 21 ), a helper of one other candidate, Their.
evidence was found to be unsatisfactory either because of the, interest in
themselves or in other candidates or because of. internal discrepancies and
defects. We have read the evidence and we see no reason to differ. In support
of the other two payments of Rs. 500 each, the only objection raised before us
was that the payments were made to the Dhanak and the Balmiki Communities with
a view to obtaining their votes because, it was contended,,. that there was no
community centre at these villages. Evidence. however shows that there are
Paras at these villages, where the Harijan Community meets In fact, in the
petition and the evidence these are referred to as Community Centres. . This
action of the answering respondent was not found to amount to a corrupt practice
and on a consideration of the evidence we are in agreement with the High Court.
The next group of corrupt practices are said
to involve certain facilities provided in the matter of irrigation.
For example, the Distributor No. 8 at Jind
was widened to give more water to Ramrai village, a footbridge over the Sunder
Branch of Western Jumna canal for Nandgarh village, two outlets were promised
from Distributory No. 2 for village Radhana. The size of the outlet of the
Sunder Branch was increased, a new Rajbaha or minor was opened to benefit
village Dingaria and the Jind Distributories were generally modified. None of
these was accepted by the High Court as evidence of corrupt practice with a
view to procuring the votes. It seems that it was conceded in the High Court
itself that these orders were made by the first respondent, in the ordinary
course of 108 his duties as Minister for Irrigation. There was nothing to show
that the first respondent went out of his way to do this. The point was,
therefore,, rightly decided against the appellant.
Mr. Naunit Lal argued vehemently that any
gift which has the effect of changing the minds of the voters is a corrupt
practice. He read out to us the judgments of Ridley and Bucknill, JJ. from
Borough of Kingston-upon-Hull(1) case.
In that case the charge against Sir Henry
Seymour King was that he had distributed coals and given boxes of sweets to the
children of the schools at the time or just before his election' The motive of
Sir Henry Seymour Kingwas never in doubt. The gifts were made to celebrate the
twenty-fifth anniversary of his membership of the Central Division of Hull.
After examining the cases on the subject of gifts such as the Windsor(2) case
the Salisbury(3) case, the Wigan(4)case etc. the learned Judges avoided the
In that case the presents were gratitious and
'not in furtherance of any duty which Sir Henr Seymour King owed in any other
capacity. In our courts this question has come up in different forms before and
a word may be said about the cases. In S. Mahar Singh v. Umrao Singh (5), the
Punjab High Court held that a candidate making a promise to get the grievances
of certain refugees as a body remedied and even getting the Revenue Minister to
reinforce his promise was not corrupt practice. It was pointed out that the
promise was not made to any particular voter or voters but to the general body
of residents without distinguishing between those who were favourably inclined
and those not. The gist of the corrupt practice, therefore, lay in attempting
to do something for those opposed to the candidate with a view to changing
their votes, and as a bargain for votes. A case in point is Maganlal Bagdi, v.
Hari Vishnu Kamath(6) in which the candidate offered to construct a well in a
village if the voters voted for him and not for the rival candidate.
Money was actually deposited for this purpose
and was to await the result of the election. Here there was a clear bargain for
votes. As observed by this Court in Khader Sheriff v. Munnuswami Gounder and Ors.
(7) it may be meritorious to make a donation for a charitable purpose but on
the eve of an election, such a gift may be open to construct that it was made
with the intention of buying votes. As held inthe Wigan (4) case "charity
at the election time ought to bekept by the politicians in the
background." But when a question does arise corrupt practice which is a
charge quasi-criminal in nature, must be proved like any other fact. The gift
must be proved to have a direct or indirect connection withvotes. The gift must
admit of no other (1) 6 O'M & H 372.
(3) 40'M & H 28.
(5) A.I.R. 1961 Punjab 244.
(7) A.I.R. 1955 S.C. 775.
(2) 20 O'M & H 88.
(4) 4 O'M & H 13.
(6) 15 E.L.R. 205.
109 reasonable excuse. In Khader Sheriff's(1)
case the payment of Rs. 500 to the District Congress Committee was.
not held to be a charitable donation but
expenditure incurred for furthering the prospects of the candidate.
Omission to show it as expenses was regarded
as corrupt practice. In Radha Krishna Shukla v. Tara Chand Maheshwar(2) general
promises by Ministers to redress certain public grievances,or to erect certain
public amenities like hospitals, if elected were held not to amount to corrupt
practice. They were treated as promises of general public action. In Gangadhar
Maithani v. Narendra Singh Bhandari(3) promises of public action were held
excluded from corrupt practice. Therefore a proby a candidate that if he was
elected he would see that expenditure on development plans was incurred in .
his constituency was held permissible. In Balwant Rai Tayal v. Bishan Saroop
(4) , a promise to the Harijans of a, locality by a candidate when he was
canvassing for votes, that he would do his best to help them in the matter of
retaining an old mosque as a temple and for getting land for building houses
was not held to amount to corrupt practice.
These cases which were cited before us are
slightly different. But they point in the same direction. In Amirchand v.
Surendra Lal Jha(5 ) it was laid down that if a Minister redresses the
grievances of a class of the public or people of a locality or renders them any
help, on the eve of an election, it is not corrupt practice unless he obtains
promises from the voters in return, as a condition for their help. In Anjaneya
Reddy v. Gangi Reddy and others(6). It was held that the proof required to
establish a con-apt practice must be almost of the character required to
establish a criminal charge.
In our opinion the law requires that a
corrupt practice involving bribery must be fully established. The evidence must
show clearly that the promise or gift directly or indirectly was made to an
elector to vote or refrain from voting at an election. The position of a
Minister is difficult. It is obvious that he cannot cease to function when his
election is due. He must of necessity attend to the grievances, otherwise he
must fail. He must improve the image of his administration before the public.
If everyone of his official acts done bona fide is to be construed against him
and an ulterior motive is spelled out of them, the administration must
necessarily come to a stand-still.
The State of Haryana came into existence on
November 1, 1966. With an election in the near future, the political party had
to do acts of a public nature. The grant of discretionary grants were part of
the general scheme to better community development projects and \to remove the
immediate (1) A.I.R. 1955 S.C. 775. (2) 12 E.L.R. 376.
(3) 18 E.I.R. 124. (4) 17 E.L.R. 101 (5) 10
E.L.R. 57. (6) 21 E.L.R. 247.
110 grievances of the, public. The money was
required to be spent in about months' time. The action of the Minister had
often the concurrence and recommendation of his subordinate staff. It is for
this reason that the orders about the improvement of the supply of waters were
not pressed. They were incapable of being construed against the first
respondent. Therefore, emphasis was placed upon the distribution of money. The
money was not distributed among the voters directly but was given to Panchayats
and the public at large. It was to be used for the good of those for and those
against the candidate. No doubt they had the effect of pushing forward his
claims but that was inevitable even if no money was spent, but good
administration changed the people's condition. We cannot, therefore, hold that
there was any corrupt practice. If there was good evidence that the Minister
bargained directly or indirectly for votes, the result might have been
different but there was no such evidence.
Although we have held in this case that the
action of the first respondent cannot be characterised as not innocent, we are
constrained to say that the attitude of Government is far from laudable.
Election is something which must be conducted fairly. To arrange to spend money
on the eve of elections in different constituencies although for general public
good, is when all is said and done an evil practice, even if it may not be
corrupt practice. The dividing line between an evil practice and a corrupt
practice is a very thin one. It should be understood that energy to do public
good should be used not on the eve' of elections but much earlier and that even
slight evidence might change this evil practices into corrupt practice.
Payments from discretionary grants on the eve of elections should be avoided.
As regards the last point we are satisfied
that the conclusion of the High Court is correct. The evidence about
influencing the Patwaris is most unsatisfactory. We do not think it necessary
to discuss the evidence over again.
In the result the appeal fails and will 'be
There shall be no order about costs.
R.K.P.S. Appeal dismissed.