Brijendralal Gupta & ANR Vs.
Jwalaprasad & Ors  INSC 86 (22 April 1960)
GUPTA, K.C. DAS
CITATION: 1960 AIR 1049 1960 SCR (3) 650
CITATOR INFO :
D 1972 SC 580 (23) R 1975 SC1274 (2)
Election-Nomination, rejection of-Non-mention
of age in nomination Paper-If defect of substantial nature-Omission, if amounts
to defect-Scrutiny-When enquiry necessaryElectoral Roll-Entry regarding age How
far conclusiveRepresentation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) ss. 33 and
36-Representation of the People Act, 1950 (43 of 1950), ss. 16 and 19.
Thirteen candidates filed their nomination
papers for election to the Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh. The
nomination of U was rejected on the ground that he failed to give a declaration
as to his age as required in the nomination paper. After the poll the
appellants were declared duly elected. Thereupon one of the unsuccessful
candidates J filed an election petition challenging the election of the
appellants, inter alia, on the ground that the nomination of U had been
improperly rejected. The Election Tribunal dismissed the petition holding that
U made no attempt before the returning officer to remedy the defect in the
nomination paper, that the defect could not in law have been remedied at the
stage of the scrutiny that the defect was of a substantial character and that
the rejection of the nomination was proper. On appeal the High Court held that
at the time of the scrutiny U had offered to supply the omission but the
returning officer had refused to allow him to do so, that the returning officer
was bound to make a summary enquiry before rejecting the nomination, that the
non-mention of age in the nomination paper was not a defect of a substantial
character and that the rejection of the nomination was improper and
consequently allowed the appeal and set aside the election of the appellants:
651 Held, that the omission to give the
declaration as to age in the nomination paper was a defect of substantial
character within the meaning of s. 36(4), Representation of the People Act,
1951, and the rejection of the nomination for such an omission was proper.
Rattan Anmol Singh v. Atma Ram,  1
S.C.R. 481, Pranlal Thakorlal Munshi v. lndubhai Bhailabhai Amin, (1952) 1
E.L.R. 182, Rup Lal v. jugaraj Singh, (1958) 5 E.L.R. 484, Brij Sundar Sharma
v. Election Tribunal, Jaipur, (1956) 12 E.L.R. 216, Balasubyahmanyan v.
Election Tribunal, Vellore, (1953) 7 E.L.R. 496 and Ramayan Shukla v. Rajendra
Prasad Singh (1958) 16 E.L.R. 491, referred to.
Durga Shankar Mehta v. Thakur Raghuraj Singh,
 S.C. 140 and Karnail Singh v. Election Tribunal Hissar,  10 E.L.R.
Pt. Charanjit Lal Ram Sarup v. Lohri Singh
Ram Narain, A.I.R. 1958 Punj. 433, disapproved.
The word " defect" in S. 36(4)
included an omission to specify the details prescribed in the nomination. The
distinction drawn in English cases between an " omission " and "
inaccurate description" depended upon the specific provisions of the
English statutes and did not obtain under the Indian Law.
The Queen v. Tugwell, (1868) 3 Q.B. 704 and Baldwin v. Ellis, (1929) 1 K.B. 273, distinguished.
Cases failing under s. 36(2) (b) must be
distinguished from those falling under s. 36(2) (a). Where the nomination paper
did not comply with the provisions of s. 33 of the Act the case fell under s.
36(2) (b) and the defective nomination had to be accepted or rejected according
as the defect was of an unsubstantial or of a substantial character. In such a
case it was not necessary for the returning officer to hold any enquiry.
CIVIL APPELLATE, JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 151 of 1960.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated November 23, 1959, of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Jabalpur, in
First Appeal No. 78 of 1959, arising out of the judgment and order dated May
12, 1959, of the Election Tribunal, Raigarh, in Election Petition No. 76/1957.
G. S. Pathak and G. C. Mathur, for the
N.C. Chatterjee, S . K. Kapur, Y. S.
Dharamadhikaree and A. G. Ratnaparkhi, for respondent No. 1.
1960. April 22. The Judgment of the Court was
delivered by GAJENDRAGADKAR, J.-Does the failure of a candidate to specify his
age as required by the prescribed form of the nomination paper amount to a
defect of a 652 substantial character under s. 36(4) of the Representation of
the People Act, 43 of 1951 (hereinafter called the Act)? That is the point of
law which arises for our decision in the present appeal. The said point arises
in this way. On February 25, 1957, polling took place at the General Election
to the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly from the Mamendragarh Double Member
Constituency. Thirteen candidates had offered themselves for election either
for the general or the reserved seat at the said election. Mr. Brijendralal
Gupta, appellant I and Thakur Raghubir Singh, appellant 2, were the Congress
candidates while respondents 1 and 7 had been adopted by the Praja Socialist
Party, respondent 4 and one Sadhuram by the Jan Sangh and the remaining
candidates had filed their nominations as independent candidates. Udebhan
Tiwari, respondent 5, bad omitted to make the declaration regarding his age in
his nomination paper. This defect was discovered at the time of the scrutiny of
the nomination papers on February 1, 1957, and as a result his nomination paper
was rejected by the returning officer. Subsequently respondent 6 withdrew his
candidature with the result that eleven candidates took part in the contest. After
the polling took place and the votes secured by the contesting candidates were
counted appellants 1 and 2 were declared duly elected to the General and the
Reserved seat respectively. Thereupon Jwalaprasad, respondent 1, filed an
election petition under s. 81 of the Act challenging the election of the
appellants on several grounds, one of which was that the nomination of
respondent 5 had been improperly rejected. He, therefore, played that the
election of the appellants should be declared void and he himself should be
declared as having been duly elected.
This election petition was made over for
trial to the Election Tribunal, Raigarh.
On the contentions raised by the parties
before it the Election Tribunal framed as many as 49 issues; but in the present
appeal we are concerned with only three of them which related to the rejection
of the nomination of respondent 5. These three issues were (1) whether the
nomination paper of respondent 5 was improperly rejected because of the
omission to 653 fill in the age in the prescribed column, (2) whether at the
time of the scrutiny respondent 5 was personally present and brought to the
notice of the returning officer that his age was above 25 and the omission is
simply accidental, and (3) if so, whether the rejection of the said nomination
paper has rendered the whole election void ab initio under s. 100(1)(c) of the
Act. The Tribunal held that respondent 5 did not make any attempt to rectify
the defect in the nomination paper, that the returning officer could not in law
have allowed respondent 5 to remedy the said defect at the stage of the
scrutiny of the nomination, and that the error in the nomination was a defect
of a substantial character with the result that the rejection of the nomination
paper was according to the Tribunal proper. In accordance with these findings
the Tribunal dismissed the election petition.
Respondent 1 then preferred an appeal against
the decision of the Tribunal before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at
Jabalpur under s. 116A of the Act. The High Court has allowed the appeal; it
has held that respondent 5 had at the time of the scrutiny offered to supply
the omission but the returning officer refused to allow him to do so, that the
returning officer was bound to make a summary enquiry before rejecting
respondent 5's nomination paper, and that the nonmention of the age in the
nomination paper was not a defect of a substantial character. In consequence,
according to the High Court, the rejection of respondent 5's nomination paper
was improper; that is why the High Court set aside the election of the
appellants under s. 100(1)(c) of the Act.
It is against this decision of the High Court
that the appellants have come to this Court by special leave.
The learned counsel for the appellants wanted
to challenge the correctness of the finding recorded by the High Court that
respondent 5 offered to correct the defect in his nomination paper by supplying
evidence about his age and that the returning officer had refused to give him
an opportunity to do so. It is true that on this question the Tribunal had
found in favour of the appellants; but, in our opinion, it was open to the High
Court to consider the correctness or the 85 654 propriety of the said finding
because the jurisdiction a of the High Court under s. 116A of the Act is wide
enough and is not confined to questions of law. It has been urged before us
that the decision on this Darrow question of fact depends upon the appreciation
of oral evidence led by the parties, and it was suggested that the High Court
was not justified in interfering with the conclusion of the Tribunal on that
point. We are not impressed by this argument. We would, therefore, deal with
the present appeal on the basis that respondent 5 attempted to rectify the
omission but was not allowed to do so by the returning officer. Therefore, if
the defect in the nomination paper of respondent 5 was not of a substantial
character the High Court's decision would be right on the other hand, if the
said defect is of a substantial character then the rejection of respondent 5's
nomination paper would be proper and the fact that respondent 5 was not allowed
an opportunity to rectify the said omission would make no difference in law.
That is how the only point which calls for our decision is whether the
omission, in question is a substantial defect under 36(4) of the Act.
Before dealing with this question it is
relevant to refer to ss. 33, 34 and read s. 36. Section 33 provides for the
presentation of the nomination paper and prescribes the requirements for a
valid nomination. Section 33(1) is important for our purpose. It provides that
on or before the date appointed under el. (a) of IS. 30 each candidate shall,
either in person or by his proposer, between the hours of eleven o'clock in the
forenoon and three o'clock in the afternoon deliver to the returning officer at
the place specified in this behalf in the notice issued under s. 31 a
nomination paper completed in the prescribed form and signed by the candidate
and by an elector of the constituency as proposer. Section 33(2) lays down that
a candidate shall not be deemed to be qualified to be chosen to fill a reserved
seat unless his nomination paper contains a declaration prescribed by it.
Sub-section (3) deals with the case of a candidate who, having held any office
referred to in el. (f) of s. 71, hag been dismissed and a period of five years
has not elapsed since the 655 dismissal, and lays down that the nomination
paper of such a person shall be accompanied by a certificate as specified.
Sub-section (4) requires that on the
presentation of a nomination paper the returning officer shall satisfy himself
that the names and electoral roll numbers of the candidate and his proposer as
entered in the nomination paper are the same as those entered in the electoral
rolls. The proviso to this subsection requires the returning officer to permit
any clerical or technical error in the nomination paper in regard to the said
names or numbers to be corrected, and where necessary, it authorises him to
direct that any clerical or printing error in the said entry shall be
overlooked. We are not concerned with the remaining two sub-sections of s. 33.
Section 34 deals with deposits and provides that a candidate shall not deemed
to be duly nominated for election from a constituency unless he deposits or
causes to be deposited the amounts as prescribed in cls. (a), (b) and (c).
Section 36 deals with the scrutiny of nomination&, authorises the returning
officer to hold an enquiry,, ,prescribes the procedure to be followed by him in
holding such an enquiry, required him to endorse his decisions on the points
raised in the scrutiny, and to prepare a list of validly nominated candidates
that is to say, whose nominations have been found valid, and to affix it to his
notice board. Section 36(1) provides that on the date fixed for the scrutiny of
nominations under s. 30, the candidates and the other persons specified in it
may attend at such time and place as the returning officer may appoint, and the
returning officer shall give them all reasonable facilities for examining the
nomination papers of all candidates which have been delivered within the time
and in the manner laid down in s. 33. Sub-section (2) deals with the
examination of nomination papers by the returning officer, and it provides that
the said officer shall decide all objections which may be made to any
nomination, and may, either on such objection or on his own motion after such
summary enquiry, if any, as he thinks necessary, reject any nomination on any
of the-following grounds,-(a) that the candidate either is not qualified or is
disqualified for being chosen to till 656 the seat under any of the following
provisions that may be applicable, viz., Arts. 84, 102, 173 and 19 1, and Part
11 of this Act, (b) that there has been a failure to comply with any of the
provisions of section 33 or section 34, or (c) that the signature of the
candidate or the proposer on the nomination paper is not genuine. Sub-section
(4) lays down that the returning officer shall not reject any nomination paper
on the ground of any defect which is not of a substantial character.
Sub-section (5) prescribes the procedure for the scrutiny, and subs. (6)
requires that the returning officer shall endorse on each nomination paper his decision
accepting or rejecting the same and in case of rejection he shall record in
writing a brief statement of his reasons for such rejection. Sub-section (7)
provides that for the purpose of this section a certified copy of an entry in
the electoral roll for the time being in force of a constituency shall be
conclusive evidence of the fact that the person referred to in that entry is an
elector for that constituency unless it is proved that he is subject to a
disqualification mentioned in s. 16 of the Representation of the People Act,
1950 (43 of 1950). Sub' section (8) requires the returning officer to prepare a
list of validly nominated candidates and affix it to his notice board.
It is clear that s. 33 requires that a
nomination paper must be completed in the prescribed form and signed by the
candidate and by the elector of the constituency as proposer. The form
prescribed in that behalf is Form No. 2B. The relevant portion of the
prescribed form reads thus:Form 2B.
Nomination Paper (See rule 4) Election to the
Legislative Assembly of.........(State) (To be filled in by the proposer) I
hereby nominate................as a candidate for election from
the.................. Assembly Constituency.
1. Full name of proposer..................
2. Electoral roll number of
3. Name of candidate's
4. Full postal address of
5. Electoral roll number of
Date ...... Signature of proposer.
657 (To be filled by the candidate) 1, the
above-mentioned candidate, assent to this nomination and hereby declare(a) that
I have completed............. years of age;
(b) that the symbols I have chosen are in
order of preference
(ii) ............................... and
Date Signature of candidate.
Strike out one of the alternatives as
It is common ground that the first part of
the nomination paper which has to be filled in by the proposer was in order and
the second part was duly 'signed by the candidate but failed to declare his age
as prescribed by (a) above. When the returning officer noticed this omission he
made an order rejecting respondent 5'S nomination. The brief statement of
reasons which the returning officer has recorded shows that he held that the
failure of respondent 5 to declare his age cannot be treated as clerical or
technical error, but is of a substantial nature since declaration as to age was
necessary in order to entitle a candidate to be qualified under Art. 173 of the
Constitution. The returning officer has also noted that he took the objection
suomoto and rejected the nomination paper of respondent 5. Thus there is no
doubt that respondent 5's omitted to specify his age before he signed his
nomination paper and in that sense his nomination paper has not been completed
in the prescribed form. The question which arises for our decision is whether
respondent 5's omission to specify his age in his nomination paper amounts to a
defect, and if yes, whether it is a defect of a substantial character under s.
36(4) of the Act.
On behalf of the appellants it has been
conceded before us that the omission in question undoubtedly constitutes
failure to comply with the provisions of A. 33, and so it attracts the
provisions of s. 36(2)(b) of the Act, but it is urged that the said omission
does not amount to a defect under s. 36(4) much less a defect which is of a
substantial character. The argument is 658 that s. 36(4) can apply only to such
cases of non-compliance with s. 33 which can be said to amount to defects and
not others, and since the omission in question is not a defect there is no
scope for invoking the provisions of that, subsection. In support of this
argument reliance has been placed on two English decisions. In The Queen v.
Tugwell (1) Cockburn, C. J., held that the 9 votes whose validity was impeached
had to be struck off because they had not complied with s. 32 of the Municipal
Corporation Act (5 & 6 Wm. 4, c. 76) and so s. 142 could not cure their
The voting papers in question contained the
Christian name and the surname of the candidate and his place of abode and
nothing more, whereas s. 32 required that they should also contain the
description of the candidate. In other words, there was a total omission to
supply the description required by s. 32. It was, however, urged that the said
omission should be treated as inaccurate description, and so the validity of
the impugned votes should be sustained under s. 142 which provides, inter alia,
that no inaccurate description of any person shall hinder the full operation of
the Act in respect of such person provided that the description of such person
is such as to be commonly understood. Cockburn, C. J., held that in the cases
of the 9 votes in question they were not dealing with the inaccurate
description but a total omission of description which is one of the things
required by s. 32, and so s. 142 was inapplicable. It appears that Lush,J., and
agreed with the conclusion of the Chief
Justice with some hesitation. To the same effect is the decision in Baldwin v.
Ellis (2). In that case the omission to state in the nomination paper the name
of the parish for which the person nominated was qualified as a local government
elector was held to be non compliance with the requirements of rule 4 of the
Rural District Councillors Election Order, 1898, and that the said omission
could not be cured by s. 13 of the Ballot Act of 1872 since that section
applied only to cases where there had been a wrongful admission of a nomination
paper and not to those where a nomination paper had been rejected. It was also
(1) (1868) 3 Q.B 704 (2) (1929) 1 K.B 273.
650 held that the omission in question cannot
be treated as inaccurate description of the person nominate within rule 13 of
the Order of 1898 but was a clear non-compliance with the requirements of rule
4 of that Order and as such it was not cured by rule 33. It would thus be seen
that in both the decisions the question as to whether the particular omission
amounted to an inaccurate description was decided in the light of the specific
provision of the statute, and so they cannot sustain the broad argument that in
no case can omission be treated as a defect. We may also incidentally point out
that Halsbury has read these decisions in the same way (3).
On the other hand the dictionary meaning of
the word " defect" is "lack or absence of something essential to
completeness", and in that sense omission to specify the age call and
would be treated as a defect under s. 36(4).
Defect also means " a flaw or a fault or
but whether or not it includes an omission
must necessarily depend upon the context in which the word is used. In our
opinion, having regard to the context it would be unreasonable to hold that the
word " defect " under s. 36(4) excludes all cases of omission to
specify the details prescribed by the statute in the nomination paper. We must
accordingly reject the appellants' argument that the omission in question is
not a defect under s. 36(4).
The next question which we must consider is
whether in the case of such an omission it was obligatory on the returning
officer to hold an enquiry under s. 36(2) of the Act. The High Court has held
that the returning officer ought to have held an enquiry under s. 36(2)(a) and
satisfied himself whether or not respondent 5 was eligible to stand for the
election. In our opinion the High Court was in error in coming to this
conclusion. If the nomination paper of respondent 5 did not comply with the
provisions of s. 33 the case fell squarely under s. 36(2)(b) and the only
question which can arise in such a case is whether or not the defect arising
from the failure to comply with the provisions of s.
33 is of a substantial character or not. If
the defect is not of a substantial (3) Halsbury's 'Laws of England", Vol.
14, 3rd Ed., paragraphs foot-note (a) on p. 95.
660 character the returning officer shall not
reject the nomination paper on the ground of the said defect; if, on the other
hand, the defect is of a substantial character the returning officer has to
reject the nomination paper on the ground of the said defect, That is the
effect of the provisions of s. 36(2)(b) and (4) read together. An enquiry which
is necessary under s. 36(2)(a) may and can be held for instance in cases where
the nomination paper shows the age of the candidate as above 25, but an
objection has been raised-that in fact he is below 25 and as such incompetent
to stand for election under Art. 173 of the Constitution; in other words, the
impugned nomination has complied with the provisions of s. 33 and as such does
Dot fall under s. 36(2)(b) at all, nevertheless the validity of the nomination
can be challenged on the ground that, in fact Art. 173 is not complied with.
Cases falling under this class must be distinguished-from cases falling under
s. 36(2)(b). In the latter class of cases the failure to comply with the
provisions of s. 33 being established there is no scope for any enquiry under
s. 36(2) (a). Once the alleged noncompliance is proved, the defective
nomination falls to be accepted or rejected according as the defect is of an
unsubstantial or of a substantial character. Therefore, it is not right to hold
that even after the returning officer was satisfied that the omission to
specify his age showed that the nomination paper of respondent 5 had not
complied with the provisions of s. 33, he should still have held an enquiry
under s. 36(2) (a). Noncompliance with the provisions of s. 33 itself would
justify the rejection of the nomination paper provided of course that the
defect arising from the non-compliance in question is of a substantial
That takes us to the question as to whether
the failure to specify the age in the nomination paper amounts to a defect of a
substantial character under s. 36(4) or not. There is little doubt that the age
of the candidate is as important as his identity, and in requiring the
candidate to specify his age the prescribed form has given a place of importance
to the declaration about the candidate's age. Just as the 661 nomination paper
must show the full name of the candidate and his electoral roll number, and
just as the nomination paper must be duly signed by the candidate, so must it
contain the declaration by the candidate about his age. It is significant that
the statement about the age of the candidate is required to be made by the
candidate above his signature and is substantially treated as his declaration
in that behalf. That being the requirement of the prescribed nomination form it
is difficult to hold that the failure to specify the age does not amount to a
defect of a substantial character. The prima facie eligibility of the person to
stand as a candidate which depends under Art. 173 of the Constitution, inter
alia, on his having completed the age of 25 years is an important matter, and
it is in respect of such an important matter that the prescribed form requires
the candidate to make the declaration. It would, we think, be unreasonable to
hold that the failure to make a declaration on such an important matter is a
defect of an unsubstantial character. In this connection, it is relevant to
refer to the fact that the declaration as to the symbols which the prescribed
form of the nomination paper requires the candidate to make is by the proviso
to rule 5 given a subsidiary place. The proviso to rule 5 shows that any
non-compliance with the provisions of sub-rule (2) of rule 5 shall not be
deemed to be a defect of a substantial character within the meaning of s. 36,
sub-s. (4). In other words, this proviso seems to suggest that, according to
the rule making authority, failure to comply with the requirements as to the
declaration of symbols as specified in rule 5, sub-rule (2), would have been
treated as a defect, of a substantial character; that is why the proviso
expressly provides to the contrary. This would incidentally show that the
failure to specify the age can. not be treated as a defect of an unsubstantial
On behalf of the respondents it has, however,
been urged before us that the returning officer should not be astute to reject
the nomination papers on technical grounds, and that in the present case the
returning officer should have looked at the electoral roll and satisfied himself
that respondent 5 was duly qualified 86 662 to stand for the election. His age
is 48 and it was shown in the electoral roll against his name. It was thus a
simple matter of looking at the electoral roll be satisfied that the omission
to specify the age in the nomination form was no more than a technical breach
of the requirements of s. 33. We are not impressed by this argument. As we have
already observed, in cases of non-compliance with s. 33 which attract the
provisions of s. 36(2)(b), there would be no occasion to hold an enquiry under
s. 36(2)(a). The only point to consider in such cases would be whether the
defects in question are substantial or not; and so the argument that the
returning officer could have easily verified the age of respondent 5 is not
really material in construing s. 36(4).
In this connection it is relevant to consider
the effect of the presumption which is raised under s. 36(7) of the Act and its
effect. As we have already noticed, under s. 36(7) a certified copy of the
entry in the electoral roll shall be conclusive evidence of the fact that the
person referred to in that entry is an elector for that constituency ; but it
must be remembered that this presumption is raised for the purposes of this
section and it is made expressly subject to the last clause of this subsection,
that is to say, the presumption can arise unless it is proved that the person
in question is subject to any of the disqualifications mentioned in s. 16 of
the Act of 1950. The use of the adjective " conclusive " which
qualifies" evidence " is technically inappropriate because the
presumption arising from the production of the certified copy is by no means
It is also significant that in regard to the
conclusive character of the relevant evidence the material provision as it
stood originally has been subsequently amended by Act 27 of 1956. Originally
the provision was that the relevant entry shall be conclusive evidence of the
right of any elector named in that entry to stand for election or to subscribe
the nomination paper as the case may be. The Legislature apparently thought
that the presumption authorised by these words was unduly wide, and so, by the
amendment, the prima facie and rebuttable presumption is now limited 663 to the
capacity of the person concerned to be treated as an elector and nothing more,
and that too unless it is proved that he suffers from any disqualification'
mentioned in s. 16. Section 16 to which reference has thus been made prescribes
disqualifications for registration in an electoral roll under three heads,-(a)
that the person is not a citizen of India, (b) that he is of unsound mind and
stands so declared by a competent court, or (c) is for the time being
disqualified from voting under the provisions of any law relating to corrupt
and illegal practices and other offences in connection with elections. Thus the
position is that the certified copy of the relevant entry would prima facie
show that the person concerned is not subject to any of the said
disqualifications, but this prima facie presumption can be rebutted by evidence
to the contrary.
There is yet another aspect of this matter to
which reference may be made. The rebuttable presumption which arises under s.
36(7) merely refers to the status of the person concerned as an elector. Let us
consider what this presumption means. An elector under s. 2, sub-s.1, (e), of
the Act in relation to a constituency means " a person whose name is
entered in the electoral roll of that constituency for the time being in force
and who is not subject to any of the disqualifications mentioned in s. 16 of
the Act of 1950".
That takes us to the conditions prescribed by
s. 19 of the Act of 1950 for registration in the electoral roll. Section 19
provides that subject to the foregoing provisions of Part III of the said Act
every person who, on the qualifying date (a) is not less than 21 years of age,
and (b) is ordinarily resident is a constituency, shall be entitled to be
registered in the electoral roll for that constituency.
Thus when a presumption is raised under s.
36(7) it may mean prima facie that the person concerned is not less than 21
years of age and is ordinarily resident in that constituency; but for the
validity of the nomination paper it has to be proved that the candidate has
completed 25 years of age. Art. 173 of the Constitution which prescribes the
qualification for membership of State Legislature provides 664 that a person
shall not be qualified in that behalf unless he (a) is a citizen of India, (b)
is, in the case of a seat in the Legislative Assembly, not less than 25 years
of age, and (c) possesses such other qualifications as may be prescribed in
that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament. Confining ourselves to the
requirement about age it is obvious that the presumption raised under s. 36(7)
would not be enough to justify the plea about validity of the nomination paper
because the said presumption only tends to show that the person concerned has
completed 21 years of age.It is clear that in regard to persons between 21 to
25 years of age their names would be registered in the electoral and so they
would be electors if otherwise qualified and yet they would not be entitled to
stand for election to the State Legislature. Thus it would not be correct to
assume that a reference to the certified copy of the electoral roll would in
every case decisively show that the age of the candidate satisfied the test
prescribed by Art. 173 of the Constitution; in other words, the requirement
about the completion of 25 years of age is outside the presumption under s.
36(7), and that must be the reason why the prescribed nomination form requires
that the candidate in signing the said form must make a declaration about his
age. This consideration supports our conclusion that the declaration about the
age is a matter of importance and failure to comply with the said requirement
cannot be treated as a defect of an unsubstantial character.
It now remains to consider some of the
decisions which were cited before us by the learned counsel for both the
In Rattan Anmol Singh v. Atma Ram(1) this
Court has held that the attestation required in the case of proposers and
seconders who are not able to write their names is not a technical or
unsubstantial matter, and so the failure to comply with the said requirement
would amount to a defect of a substantial character. The appellants contend,
and with some force, that this decision supports their case that like the
attestation required in the case of an illiterate proposer or seconder the
declaration as to the (1)  1 S.C.R 481, 665 age of the candidate is a
matter of substantial importance, and failure to comply with the requirement of
the prescribed form in that behalf cannot be treated as a defect which is not
of a substantial character. In Pranlal Thakorlal Munshi v. Indubhai Bhailabhai
Amin (1), the Election Tribunal, Baroda, has held that the omission by the
candidate to mention his age in the nomination paper is a defect of a
substantial character and that his nomination paper had been properly rejected
on that account. The appellants have naturally relied on this decision in
support of their case.
The appellants have then referred us to
certain decisions where the effect of the failure to specify the electoral roll
number or other particulars has been considered, and it has been held that the
failure in question amounts to a substantial defect under s. 36(4) of the Act.
(Vide: Rup Lal v. Jugraj Singh (2 ); Brij Sundar Sharma v. Election Tribunal,
Jaipur (3 ); Balasubrahmanyan v. Election Tribunal, Vellore (4); and Ramayan
Shukla v. Rajendra Prasad Singh (5). By parity of reasoning the appellants
contend that the failure to mention the age is undoubtedly a substantial
defect. It is unnecessary for us to consider the merits of these decisions.
On the other hand the respondents have relied
on the decision of this Court in the case of Durga Shankar Mehta v.
Thakur Raghuraj Singh (6). Indeed it appears
from the judgment of the High Court under appeal that in coming to its decision
the High Court was influenced by certain observations made by Mukherjea, J., as
he then was, in dealing with the case of Durga Shankar (6). In that case the
validity of the election of Vasant Rao, respondent 2, was challenged before the
Election Tribunal on the ground that he was not eligible to stand for election
since at all material times he was under 25 years of age. It was, however,
clear that no objection was taken before the returning officer in respect of
the nomination paper of respondent 2, and the said nomination paper had been
accepted by there turning officer. The question (1) (1952) 1 E.L.R. 182.(2)
(1958) 15 E.L.R 484.
(3) (1956) 12 E.L.R. 216.(4) (1953) 7 E.L.R.
(5) (1958) 16 E.L.R. 491.(6)  S.C.R.
666 which was raised before this Court was
whether the acceptance of respondent 2's nomination paper could be said to be
improper, and this Court held that the acceptance would have been improper if
the want of qualification was apparent on the electoral roll itself or on the face
of the nomination paper and the returning officer overlooked that defect or if
any objection was raised and enquiry made as to the absence of qualification in
the candidate and the returning officer came to the wrong conclusion on the
materials placed before him. Since neither of these things had happened in that
case, the Court held that the acceptance must be deemed to be a proper
acceptance. Even so it was observed that the validity of respondent 2's
election could be challenged under s. 100(2)(c) of the Act.
With that aspect of the matter we are,
however, not concerned in the present appeal. It would thus be clear that in
the case of Durga Shankar (1) this Court had no occasion to consider the scope
and effect of s. 36(2Xb) and (4) of the Act at all, and so the observations
made in the judgment on which reliance had been placed by the respondents in
support of their plea that an enquiry should have been held in the present case
do not really help us.
The said observations must, with respect, be
read in the context of the dispute which was raised before this Court in that
case. The respondents have also relied upon the decision of this Court in
Pratap Singh v. Shri Krishna Gupta (2). In that case this Court has no doubt
observed that courts should not adopt a technical attitude in dealing with
election matters and that " it is the substance that must count and it
must take precedence over mere form ; but in appreciating the effect of these
observations it is necessary to bear in mind the points which arose for
decision in that case. It was the failure of the candidate to mention his
occupation as required by rule 9 (1)(i) on which the validity of his nomination
was impeached, and in dealing with that point this Court had to consider the
effect of s. 23 of the C. P. and Berar Municipalities Act, 2 of 1922, which
provided that anything done or any proceeding taken under the said Act shall
not be questioned on account (1)  1 S.C.R. 267 (2) A.I.R. 1956 S.C. 140,
141, 667 of any defect or irregularity not affecting the merits of the case. So
the short point which the Court had to decide was whether the defect in the
nomination form affected the merits of the case, and it held that there was no
doubt that the said failure, could riot possibly affect the merits of the case.
It was in the context of this legal position that the Court disapproved of the
technical attitude adopted by the High Court in dealing with the question of
the validity of the impugned nomination. It is significant, however, that even in
that case the Court has referred with approval to its earlier decision in the
case of Rattan Ammol Singh (1). There is another decision of this Court on
which the respondents have relied. That is the case of Karnail Singh v.
Election Tribunal, Hissar (2). It appears that in that case the nomination
paper of Sher Singh had been rejected on the ground that column 8 in the
nomination form was not duly filled up. The defect to which objection was taken
was that the name of the sub-division had not been stated under the relevant
columns, though on evidence it was quite clear that there was no defect in
identifying the candidate and that the candidate himself pointed out to the
returning officer the entry of his name in the electoral roll, and this Court
held that the defect in question was purely technical and that the Tribunal was
perfectly right in holding that the nomination paper had been improperly
rejected. It is difficult to see how this decision can assist the respondents
at all. As we have already pointed out the omission to make a declaration about
the age is, in our opinion, an omission to comply with the substantial
requirement prescribed by the form and it cannot be compared with the omission
with which this Court was concerned in the case of Karnail Singh (2).
There is one more decision on which the
respondents have relied. In Pt. Charanjit Lal Ram Sarup v. Lahri Singh Ram
Narain (3) the Punjab High Court was dealing with a case where the nomination
paper of a candidate had been rejected not only on account of the omission to
state the age in the nomination paper but also for the reason that no evidence
was led by the (1) [1955) 1 S.C.R. 481. (2) (1954) 10 E.L.R. 189.
(3) A.I.R, 1958 Punj. 433.
668 candidate concerned or by his
representatives or agents to show that the candidate had completed his 25 years
though the returning officer had directed that such evidence should be led. It
appears that the Election Tribunal also found that on the evidence adduced
before it could not be determined with any amount of certainty as to whether at
the time of filing the nomination paper Mr. Pirthi,the candidate in question,
was above or below 25 years of age. That is why it was held that the rejection
of the nomination paper could not be said to be improper. One of the points
urged before the Punjab High Court was that the omission to state the age was
not a defect of a substantial character but the High Court did not feel called
upon to give a firm finding on this point, because in the case before it there
was not only the impugned omission but there was also no material before the
returning officer whereby that omission could be made good. We ought, however,
to add that though on the facts proved in that case the election petition
should have been dealt with under s. 36(2)(b) and (4) it was apparently
considered as falling under s. 36(2)(a) and that, as we have already pointed
out, is not the true legal position.
Besides there are certain general
observations made in the judgment which would indicate that the High Court was
inclined to hold that the defect arising from the failure to declare the age in
the nomination form was not of a substantial character. It is unnecessary to
add that these observations do not correctly represent the effect of s. 36(2)(b)
and s. 36(4) of the Act.
In the result the appeal is allowed, the
decision of the High Court is set aside and that of the Tribunal restored with