Om Prabha Jain Vs. Abnash Chand & ANR
 INSC 30 (7 February 1968)
07/02/1968 HIDAYATULLAH, M.
CITATION: 1968 AIR 1083 1968 SCR (3) 111
CITATOR INFO :
R 1971 SC 241 (9) R 1971 SC2025 (56) R 1975
SC1612 (50) F 1975 SC1634 (8) F 1976 SC 27 (14) R 1980 SC 701 (14)
Election--Minister making discretionary
grant--When amounts to corrupt practice.
The State of Haryana came into existence On
1st November 1966. The Cabinet placed certain sums of money at the disposal of
the ministers, one of whom was the appellant to be used at their discretion for
purposes of public utility, for the benefit of the general public and for the
uplift of backward communities. The money had to be disbursed before 31st March
1967 through Panchayat, Municipal or Government agencies. The appellant
sanctioned certain payments for building two dharmashalas in two wards of a
Long after the sanction, her candidature for
election to the Vidhan Sabha of the State was recognised by her party and she
stood for election from a constituency which included these two wards.- She was
elected, and-some time later, the money was made available to the wards though
the recipients were writing that the money should be made available at once.
The first respondent challenged the election alleging corrupt practices and
later amended the petition giving better particulars. The pleas in the petition
contradicted each other, the evidence tendered at the trial of the petition
contradicted the pleas, and the witnesses were found to be thoroughly
unreliable. In spite of this the petition was allowed on the ground that the
circumstances showed that the were in fact paid to bargain for votes and to
influence the voters in favour of the appellant.
In appeal to this Court,
HELD : The action of the appellant could not
be construed against her. It was done in the ordinary course of her duties as
Minister and there was no evidence that it was, directly or indirectly, part of
a bargain with the voters.
No hurry to make the money available to the
recipients emanated from the appellant. It was only the persons who were to
benefit by the discretionary grant that were anxious to lay hands on the money,
as soon as possible, so that the grant might not be cancelled later by a change
of attitude caused by the election going against the particular party.
[117 H; 118 A--C] Ghasi Ram v. Dal Singh
& Ors.  3 S.C.R. 102 followed.
Bhagwan Dutta Shastri v. Ram Ratanji Gupta,
A.I.R. 1960 S.C.
200 and Kandaswami v. Adityan, 19 E.L.R. 260,
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 1862 of 1967.
Appeal under s. 116-A of the Representation
of the People Act 1951 from the judgment and order dated November 16, 1967 of
the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Election Petition No. 19 of 1967.
112 A. K. Sen, B. Dutta, P. C. Bhartari, M.
L. Aggarwal and J. B. Dadachanji, for the appellant.
S. K. Mehta and K. L. Mehta, for respondent
No. 1 The Judgment of the Court was delivered by Hidayatullah, J. This appeal
is directed against the judgment of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at
Chandigarh, November 16, 1967 by which the election of the appellant to the
Vidhan Sabha of Haryana State from the Kaithal constituency has been declared
to be void. The election was held on February 19, 1967 and the result of the
pool was declared on February 22, 1967. The appellant had a margin of nearly
2000 votes. over the first respondent who was the closest rival. One other
candidate had also stood but we are not concerned with him in the present
appeal since he has not shown any interest in it. He secured less than 1000
votes and forfeited his security.
The election petition was based upon
allegations of corrupt practice against the successful candidate. The gravamen
of the charge was that she as a minister in the Government of Mr. Bhagwat Dayal
Sharma used certain discretionary grants to bribe the voters of her
constituency and in particular by paying two sums, of Rs. 2,000 for the
construction of two dharamsalas ,for the Kumhar and the Sweeper Colonies at
Kaithal. There were other allegations also against her but as they have been
found against the election petitioner and have not been brought to our notice
we need not say anything about them. The learned Judge who tried the election
petition did not accept the evidence tendered by the election petitioner to
prove the corrupt practice outlined above but held on a general appraisal of
the circumstances of the case that these sums were in fact paid to bargain for
votes and to influence the voters in favour of the appellant. We shall now give
a few facts of the case before stating our conclusion.
The election petition was filed on April 7,
1967. It was later amended and better particulars were supplied on July 29,
1967. In the original election petition as filed by the election petitioner it
was stated that a sum of Rs. 2,000 from the discretionary giant of the
appellant was paid to the Harijans of Keorak Gate, Kaithal for the construction
of a dharamsala. The allegation then was that in the beginning of January 1967
the Harijans were approached by the appellant and were asked to vote for her.
They flatly refused to vote for her. Thereupon she promised to provide funds
for the construction of a dharamsala in their basti and tempted by this offer
they agreed to vote for her. In regard to the other discretionary grant it
'was' stated in the original petition that the Kumhar voters who reside in
Dogran Gate. Kaithal, were also 113 approached,by the appellant in the
beginning of January 1967 and were asked to vote for her. When they refused to
vote she promised them a sum of Rs. 2,000 for building the dharamsala in their
locality. It was further pointed out that the first sum of Rs. 2,000 was paid
through the Deputy Commissioner, Kamal, vide his Memo No. 78-BP-III/67/335 of
January 12, 1967. The second payment was also made on the same date through the
Deputy Commissioner, Karnal, vide Development Department Memo No.
The affidavit in support of the election
petition was sworn by the election petitioner on information supplied by others
and believed to be true. It was stated in the verification clause that.this
information was received "from my workers and believed to be true".
On an objection being raised that the
particulars of the corrupt practice were not adequate and on the other hand
vague and that the affidavit did not disclose the persons from whom the
information was derived the Court ordered that better particulars be supplied
and a fresh affidavit filed.
The amended election petition was then filed
in July, 1967.
In this election petition a change was
introduced. It was stated that on December 22, 1966 the Harijans were called to
a Canal Rest House through one Om Prakash Shorewala.
President of the Municipal Committee,
Kaithal. Other members of the Municipal Staff including the Executive Officer
Bhalla were also present. Among those who came were one Khaki Ram, Banwari Lal
and one Harijan Lamberdar whose name was not given. In the presence of these
persons request Was made to the Harijans to vote for the appellant, and when
they refused to do a sum of Rs. 2,000 was promised from the discretionary
grant, and on this offer the Harijan voters consented to .vote for the
appellant. It was further alleged that this. amount was ultimately paid to
Khaki Rain and Banwari Lal through Shri Om Parkash Shorewala (R.W. 4).
As regards the second charge it was stated
that on December
29. 1966 the Kumhar voters were summoned- to
the Canal Rest House and three persons, Thakru, Attra and Lilloo came as the
representatives of the Kumhar community. The same procedure, viz., asking them
to vote for her candidature was followed by the appellant and on their refusal
to do so a sum of Rs. 2,000 was promised to them for the construction of a
dharamsala in their basti at Dogran Gate. Kaithal.
This induced them to change their views. The
affidavit was also corrected. It was stated that the allegation was based upon
information received from Pandit Kailash Chander, s/o Pandit Hari Ram of
Kaithal and Ch. Inder Rai, ex-Municipal Commissioner, Chandena Gate Gamri,
114 In answer to the amended election
petition the written statement added that the allegation was a pure concoction.
The appellant pointed out that the grant for
the construction of the dharamsalas was made by the appellant as far back as
December 19, 1966 and that the allegation that it was the result of a bargain
either on December 22 or December 29, was a pure fiction.
The election petitioner examined fourteen witnesses.
We are, however, not concerned with all of them because they are connected with
the other allegations in the election petition. Witnesses bearing upon this
case were only four.
They were Gurbax Singh (P.W. 1), who only
proved certain documents, P. N. Bhalla (P.W. 3), the Executive Officer of the
Municipality, Thakru (P.W. 8), whose name has already been mentioned by us and
Abnash Chander, the election petitioner. In the evidence a change was again
It was attempted to be proved that the
bargain which had been referred to in the election petitions actually took
place on December 3, 1966. This time it was affirmed that the Kumhars and the
Sweepers were called together. An objection was taken before the learned Judge
that this evidence could not be considered because the plea was quite
different. The learned Judge ruled that the objection would be decided later.
It appears that the learned Judge did not put too much emphasis on the change
of pleading presumably because he found the evidence to be unsatisfactory and
unreliable. On the side of the appellant were examined one R. N. Kapur (R.W.
1), the personal Secretary of the appellant who proved her tour programme to
give a lie to some of the allegations in the election petition. Attroo (R.W.
3), who was said to have been present at the conferences, Om Parkash Shorewala
(R.W. 4), the Municipal President, Mr. Bhagwat Dayal Sharma (R.W. 5), the Chief
Minister in whose Ministry the appellant was working as the Finance Minister
and the appellant herself.
It is not necessary to go largely into what
the witnesses said because the learned Judge himself observed as follows
"Whereas according to the respondent the fact of the grant is not
disputed, but it is denied that the grant was made in consideration of these
communities voting for her. If the matter had remained at this stage and the
executing agency (the Sub-Divisional Magistrate) had disbursed these grants I
would not have been prepared to accept the oral evidence regarding the bargain
which led to the grants. But the manner, how the money was realised and
disbursed, lends ample support to the evidence that the bargain was
struck." It is clear that the learned Judge was of the opinion that the
evidence led to prove the conference and the bargain at the con- 115 ference
was unacceptable. He, however, accepted it because it was supported by
circumstantial details of the withdrawing of the money which was sanctioned;
but for this the learned Judge would not have accepted the election petition.
We shall glance at this evidence which has
been led in the case. As pointed out above the only witnesses from 'the
conference are Thakru (P.W. 8) and Bhalla (P.W. 3). With regard to Thakru it is
sufficient to point out what the learned Judge himself said at the end of the
deposition of Thakru : "The testimony of, this witness has not at all
impressed me. I will place no reliance whatsoever on his testimony." In
view of this observation of the learned' Judge we think we are entitled to
ignore his testimony altogether. As regards Bhalla (P.W. 3), he seems to have
deposed not only in. respect of these two grants but every allegation made in
the election petition. Mr. A. K. Sen, for the appellant, very pertinently
described him as an omnibus witness. His evidence is not convincing. It appears
on the record of this .case (and it was in fact admitted by Bhalla) that the
appellant had taken action against him in respect of a house which fell down
owing to the negligence of the Municipal Authorities. It appears to us that
Bhalla was hostile to the appellant. There is enough material to show that he
was trying to get even with the appellant for her action in putting the blame
upon him for the falling down of a house from seepage of water from the
municipal mains. The learned Judge did not place any direct reliance upon
Bhalla's testimony. As we have shown above, if it had not been for the
circumstances attending the grant the learned Judge himself would have
discarded his testimony. We must, therefore, proceed with extreme caution in
dealing with Bhalla's evidence in the case.
It may be pointed out here that in the
election petition as well as in the evidence it was stated that the Harijans
and Kumhars were summoned through Bhalla and the peon was ordered by Om Prakash
Shorewala to call the leaders of these two communities to the Canal Rest House:
Sat Prakash, the peon was not examined in the case. Of the persons present on
the first occasion, viz., Banwari Lal, Khaki Ram, Lilloo and Attra and the
Harijan Lamberdar who was not even named, none was examined except Attroo and
Thakru. Attroo was examined by the appellant. We have shown above that the
learned Judge placed no reliance upon Thakru's word. He made a similar remark
about Attroo also so that the case really comes to this that there is only the
evidence of the parties and such other evidence as was furnished by Shore- wala
and Bhalla. The persons from whom information was derived as stated in the-
verification of the affidavit were not called as witnesses. We have shown that
Bhalla's testimony must not be taken on its face value., Om Prakash Shorewala
was support- 116 ing the election petitioner but even so his evidence goes in
favour Of the appellant. The fact, 'however. remains that the . election
petitioner himself was fumbling with the facts and was not able to state quite
categorically when the conferences took place and on what date and at which
He changed the dates as more information came
to hand. This was not information about the conferences but the date on which
the grant was sanctioned and the dates on which the appellant could be expected
to have held the conferences.
In these circumstances, we are satisfied that
in this case the oral evidence is practically non-existing.
Mr. Mehta, who argued the case on behalf of
the answering respondent, stated that it was not necessary at all to give the
facts about the conferences and that the charge of bribery could be proved even
without the details of how the bribe came to be given. He relied upon the
judgment of the Madras High Court in Kandaswami v. S. B. Adityan for the
proposition that a bribe is a bribe although the date on which it is given may
not be capable of being specified if it could be established otherwise that
the. money was in fact paid; and he further relied on a judgment of this Court
in Bhagwan Datta Shasri v. Ram Ratanji Gupta & Ors. (1).
that even if the full particulars be not
given evidence might still be led to determine whether a corrupt practice had
in fact taken place or not. We need not decide in this case what the pleadings
and the proof should-be. The ordinary rule of law is that evidence is to be
given only on a plea properly raised and not in contradiction. of: the plea.
Here the pleas were made on two different occasions and contradicted each
other. The evidence which was tendered contradicted both the pleas. The source
of the information was not attempted to 'be proved and the witnesses who were
brought were found to be thoroughly unreliable. In these circumstances we do
not propose to refer to the evidence in this judgment any- more..
This brings us to the question whether the
circumstances of this case clearly demonstrated that there must have been some
kind of bargain before the grant was made and that this bargain was with a view
to inducing the voters to support the candidature of the appellant. In Ghasi
Ram v. Dal Singh & Ors. (3) in which the judgment of this Court was
pronounced today, the law relating to corrupt practice specially in the matter
of giving of discretionary grants has been considered and stated. It has been
pointed out that a Minister in the discharge of his duties may be required to
do. some acts of administration including the granting of money for the uplift
of certain communities and this action of the Minister is not to be construed
against him unless it can be established (1) 19 E.L.R. 260.
(3)  3 S.C.R. 1' 2.
(2) A.I.R. 1960 S.C. 200.
117 that there 'was a bargain with the voters
for getting their assistance at the election. Since the oral evidence in this
case is non-existing we must now look at the circumstances whether this
conclusion which has been drawn by the High Court can be irresistibly reached.
The State of Haryana came into existence on
Immediately afterwards the Cabinet placed
certain sums of money at the disposal of, the Chief Minister, the Cabinet
Ministers, Ministers for State and Deputy Ministers, to be used at their,
discretion for the uplift of the communities.
A sum of Rs. 50,000 was placed in the
discretionary grant of a Minister and the appellant as the Finance Minister in
the Ministry of Shri Bhagwat Dayal Sharma was required to spend this money. The
money had to be disbursed before the end of the Financial Year, that is to say,
before March 31, 1967.
It is reasonable to think that there must
have been several demands in this State from the various community centers for
their own uplift and they must have been clamouring even before for money for
the establishment of schools, hospitals, supply of water, and so on. The policy
statement attached to the sanction of the discretionary grant stated the
purposes for which the money could be utilised. It was stated quite clearly
that the money should not be given to any private person 'but should be given
through the Development Commissioner for purposes of public utility and for
benefit of the general public and that the execution of the works should be
through certain named agencies such as Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samities, the
Panchayats concerned, the Public Works Department or any other Government
Agencies or Municipality as the Minister may indicate. In the present case
money was to be disbursed through the Municipal Committee.
It is argued that the money was withdrawn and
made available a day before the poll suggesting thereby that this was done to
assure the voters that the money had come in as a result of the, bargain. The
hurry in reaching the money to these two wards in the Kaithal Municipality is the main reason behind the learned Judge's conclusion that it must have been a
part of a bargain. Evidence, however shows that Bhalla (who was not favourable
to the appellant) himself wrote saying that the money should be made available
at once; and this money came to the hands of Om Prakash Shorewala, who, as we
have already pointed out, was helping the answering respondent in his election.
It appears to us that all this hurry which did not emanate from the appellant
was the result of and anxiety on the part of the recipients that the money
should be made available as soon as possible.