Manphul Singh Vs. Surinder Singh
 INSC 236 (11 November 1974)
KHANNA, HANS RAJ
CITATION: 1975 AIR 502 1975 SCR (2) 680 1975
SCC (1) 260
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1975 SC2117 (14)
Representation of the People Act, 1951-When a
party could ask for inspection of counterfoils of ballot papers.
The respondent in his election petition
challenging the election of the appellant alleged that a large number of votes
were cast in favour of the appellant by impersonating dead and absentee voters
and that in some cases some persons polled their votes twice or more than twice
in favour of the returned candidate by registering themselves as voters at two
or more places in the constituency. The respondent prayed for the production of
the counterfoils of the ballot papers to prove the genuineness of the
signatures of the voters. Before the High Court the appellant contended that
the counterfoils should not be allowed to be produced unless a prima facie case
for inspection was made out. When the High Court allowed the inspection of two
counterfoils of ballot papers to confirm the oral evidence of the witnesses
that they had impersonated two voters by signing in the counterfoils the
appellant came in appeal to this Court and the appeal was dismissed. This Court
then pointed out that nothing could be clearer or mom reasonable than the
procedure suggested by the petitioner and accepted by the High Court. After
examining the evidence of the witnesses recorded then the High Court found
prima facie that there had been personation in about 310 cases and allowed the
petitioner to inspect the counterfoils of the ballot papers relating to these
On appeal to this Court it was contended that
the High Court did not apply its mind to judge the quality of evidence to see
if there had been a prima facie case.
Dismissing the appeal,
HELD : (1) In some cases the ends of justice
would make it necessary for the Tribunal to allow a party to inspect the ballot
papers and consider his objections about the improper acceptance or improper
rejection of votes tendered by the voters at any given election but care must
be taken to see that election petitioners do not get a chance to make a roving
or fishing enquiry in the ballot boxes. The allegations in support of the
prayer for inspection must not be vague or indefinite; they must be supported
by material facts and prayer made must be bona fide one. [683F-G; 684A] Dr.
Jagjit Singh v. Giani Kartar Singh, A.I.R. 1966 S.C.
773, Shashi Bhushan v. Prof. Balraj Madhok
 2 S.C.R. 177 followed.
(2) On the material before the Court it could
not be said that the High Court acted arbitrarily in taking the view that it
has taken. The High Court classified the various types of impersonation and
came to the view that the evidence of these witnesses, if unrebutted, would be
sufficient to prove the allegation of impersonation. This means that the High
Court was satisfied that there was prima facie case and the matter required
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 739 (NCE) of 1974.
Appeal by Special Leave from the Judgment and
Order dated the 4th February 1974 of the Punjab and Harvana High Court in Civil
Misc. Petn. No. 158-E of 1973 in Election Petn.
No. 45 of 1972.
R. K. Garg, S. C. Agarwala and S. S.
Bhatnagar, for the appellant.
681 Bakhtawar Singh Ch. Manmohan Singh, D. N.
Mishra and J. B.Dadachanji, for the respondents.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
GUPTA, J.-In this appeal by special leave the appellant questions the propriety
of an order made by the High Court of Punjab and,' Haryana at Chandigarh in the
course of trial of an election petition allowing the petitioner's experts to
inspect the counterfoils of the ballot papers of voters who had been found by
the Court "prima facie to have been impersonated".
The facts leading to the order under appeal
are briefly as follows. In the election held on March 11, 1972 the appellant
Shri Manphul Singh was elected to the Haryana Vidhan Sabha from the Jhajjar
Constituency defeating his only rival, Shri Surinder Singh, the respondent
before us, by a margin of 265 votes. Shri Surinder Singh, referred to
hereinafter as the petitioner, filed an election petition challenging the
election of the returned candidate on various allegations of which the
following are material for the present purpose (1) 28 votes were cast in favour
of the returned candidate by some persons impersonating voters who were dead.
(2) 710 absentee voters were impersonated by
persons who polled their votes in favour of the returned candidate.
(3) 158 government servants who were
registered as voters in the Constituency but were not present in their
respective villages and did not cast their votes, were impersonated and their
votes were polled in favour of the returned candidate.
(4) 149 persons, registered as voters at two
or more different places in the constituency, polled their votes twice or more
than twice in favour of the returned candidate.
In an application filed on December 1, 1972
the petitioner suggested a procedure to enable him to prove his case of
impersonation and double voting. It was stated that he would produce genuine
voters who should be shown the counterfoils of the ballot papers to test
whether the counterfoils carried their genuine signatures and for this purpose
the petitioner asked for production of the counterfoils. This application was
pending when the petitioner started examining his witnesses and the prayer was
renewed when one Ranbir Singh, P.W. 17, was in the witness box. The prayer was
opposed on behalf of the returned candidate but the High Court by its order
dated January 5, 1973 allowed inspection of two counterfoils of ballot papers
to confirm the oral evidence of the witness that he had impersonated two voters
by signing their names in the counterfoils.
682 It appears that from an earlier
interlocutory order passed in this election dispute, the returned candidate had
preferred an appeal to this Court which was dismissed. In the Judgment in that
case, reported in AIR 1973 S.C. 2158 (Manphul Singh v. Surinder Singh), this
Court observed at page 2162 of the report referring to the petitioner's
aforesaid application dated December 1, 1972 "In the application filed in
support of the, petition for production of records it is pointed out that the
evidence is to be led by the production of 'genuine voter and he is to shown
the counterfoil whether it bears his signature or not and then whether be in
fact polled his vote or not or somebody else had cast his vote. It was specifically
stated that the petitioner will pray for inspection of ballot papers when he
succeeds in proving that they have not cast their votes and have been
impersonated. Nothing could be clearer or more reasonable than this."
Obviously, in this context "proving" meant proving prima facie, or
there would not have any necessity of examining the counter-foils.
On December 17, 1973 the High Court allowed
the prayer made on behalf of the petitioner to allow two finger-print experts
named by the petitioner to compare the thumb impressions of some of the
witnesses with the thumb impressions on the relevant counterfoils. On December
18, 1973 the returned candidate made an application, registered as Civil
Miscellaneous Application No. 158-E/73, on which the order under appeal was
passed on February 4, 1974. In that application the returned candidate
contended that the counterfoils were secret documents and their inspection
should not be all-owed unless a prima facie case for inspection was made out
and that the Court's order allowing inspection at that stage when there was no
prima facie case amounted to a fishing enquiry not permissible in law; the
prayer made in the application was for revoking the permission granted to the
finger-print experts cited by the petitioner to inspect the counterfoils of
The application also included several other
grievances which the Court found were of substance and the order disposing of
the application was to that extent in favour of the petitioner. It is therefore
not necessary to refer to these other grievances for the present purpose.
In disposing of the application the High
Court also proceeded on the footing that "the person seeking inspection of
the counterfoils must prove a prima facie case in support of his allegation before
the counterfoils can be made available to him". In the course of the
Judgment the High Court further observed that "the secrecy of the ballot
would be allowed to be violated only if a Prima facie case is made out by the
petitioner in support of his allegation". Having examined the evidence of
the witnesses recorded till then, the High Court found prima facie that there
had been impersonation in about 310 cases and allowed the petitioner's experts
to inspect the counterfoils of the ballot papers pertaining to these 310
voters. The High 683 Court tabulated the result of the examination of the
evidence of the witnesses in seven lists appended to its Order marked with the
letters, A, B, C, D, E, F and G. List A contains particulars of dead voters who
are alleged to have been impersonated. They are 5 in number. List B includes
the particulars of voters examined on oath and found prima facie to have been
impersonated on the basis of their own testimony. The number of such voters is
List C contains the particulars of voters who
appeared prima facie to have been impersonated ;upon the evidence of P.Ws. 17
and 472. They are four in number. List D sets out the particulars of voters who
had appeared as witnesses for the petitioner but deposed against him, but who
were found prima, facie to have been impersonated from the, deposition of other
witnesses. Such voters are 15 in number. List E contains particulars of those
witnesses who had been declared hostile to the petitioner but who were found
prima facie to have been impersonated from the deposition of other witnesses.
Their number is 13. List F includes particulars of voters not examined as
witnesses but who were found prima facie to have been impersonated from the
deposition of other witnesses. The number of such voters is 48, List G contains
particulars of multiple voting. This list includes two categories : (a) those
who polled twice in the constituency, and (b) those who polled once in the
constituency and again in another constituency.Category (a) contains 17 and
category (b) contains 46 such cases.
The legal position as regards inspection of
ballot papers or their counterfoils. now seems to be well established.In Dr.
Jagjit Singh v., Giani Kartar Singh, (AIR 1966 S.C. 773), this Court observed :
"An application made for the inspection
of ballot boxes must give material facts which would enable the Tribunal to
consider whether in the interest of justice, the ballot boxes should be
inspected or not. In dealing with this question, the importance of the secrecy
of the ballot papers cannot be ignored......
It may be that in some cases, the ends of
justice would make it necessary for the Tribunal to allow a party to inspect
the ballot boxes and consider his objections about the improper acceptance or
improper rejection of votes tendered by voters at any given election but in
considering the requirements of justice. care must be taken to see that
election petitioners do not jet a chance to make a roving or fishing enquiry in
the ballot boxes so as to justify their claim that the returned candidates
election is void. We do not propose to lay down any hard and fast rule in this
matter; indeed, to attempt to lay down such a rule would be inexpedient and
unreasonable." The principle stated. in Dr. Jagjit Singh's case (Supra)
was reaffirmed by this Court in Sashi Bhusan v. Prof. Balraj Madhok and Ors,
 2 S.C.R. 177. 'It was observed in Sashi Bhusan's case:
"Facts naturally differ from case to
Therefore it is dangerous to lay down any
rigid test in the matter of ordering an inspection. It is no doubt true that a
Judge 684 while deciding the question of inspection of the ballot papers must
bear in mind the importance of the secrecy of the ballot papers. The
allegations in support of a prayer for inspection must not be vague or
indefinite; they must be supported by material facts and prayer made must be a
bona fide one.
If. these conditions are satisfied, the Court
will be justified in permitting inspection of ballot papers. Secrecy of ballot
is important, but doing justice is undoubtedly more important........
That in proceeding to consider the evidence,
the High Court was aware of the correct legal position is clear from its
Judgment. We have quoted above the observation of this Court in the earlier
appeal arising out of the same election petition that "nothing could be
clearer or more reasonable" than the procedure suggested by the petitioner
and accepted by the High Court. Mr. Garg appearing for the appellant made a
grievance that the High Court did not apply its mind to judge the quality of
the evidence in order to find out whether really there was a prima facie case
and depended on the volume of the evidence adduced in making the impugned
order. We do not think that the criticism is justified.
The High Court classified the various types
of impersonation alleged into seven categories mentioning all relevant
particulars including the names of witnesses on whose evidence the allegation
in each category was based. The High Court was of the view that the evidence of
these witnesses, if unrebutted, would be sufficient to prove the allegation of
impersonation. This means the High Court was satisfied that there was a prime
facie case and the matter required further investigation; on the material
before us we cannot say that the High Court acted arbitrarily in taking this
View. Mr. Garg also contended that there was no material to support the
allegation of multiple voting. This is what the learned Judge of the High Court
says on this aspect of the case : "I have been taken through various parts
of the electoral roll by learned counsel 'for the petitioner who contends that
each one of such persons is shown to be registered at two places in the
constituency or in different constituencies by reason of the fact that his or her
description as well as the description of his or her family members or some of
them given in the two places is the same...... It is common ground between the
parties that the votes of such voters have been polled at both the places.
In respect of these 63 persons therefore the
petitioner must 'be held to have adduced prima facie evidence in support of his
allegations. Their Particulars are specified in List G appended to this
order." This extract from the Judgment of the High Court proves that Mr.
Garg's contention is without substance.
For the reasons stated above this appeal
fails and is dismissed with costs.
P.B.R. Appeal dismissed.