Ramji Prasad Singh Vs. Ram Bilas Jha
& Ors  INSC 239 (24 September 1976)
CITATION: 1976 AIR 2573 1977 SCR (1) 741 1977
SCC (1) 260
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1977 SC1992 (30) RF 1977 SC2171 (23) R
1978 SC 351 (5) R 1978 SC1162 (8) R 1985 SC 89 (20) C 1991 SC2001 (5,24)
Representation of the People Act 1950--Sec.
15, 21, 22, 23--Preparation and revision of electoral roll--Amendment,
transposition or deletion of entries in electoral roll--Provision of Sec. 23 if
mandatory--Representation of the People Act 1951---Every person on electoral
roll whether entitled to vote even if name not brought in accordance with
law---Sec. 100 ( 1 ) b--Sec. 123 ( 1 ) (A)b-Bribery--Proof of--Quasi-criminal in
nature Interference with appreciation of evidence by High Court.
Bihar and Orissa municipal Act 1922--S. 389.
In March, 1972, the Election Commission
issued a notification calling upon the Muzaffarpur Local Authorities Constituency
to elect one member to the Bihar Legislative Council. One of the constituencies
was the notified area committee of Dumra. The. last date for filing nomination
was 5-4-1972. The poll was held on 30-4-1972 and the result was declared on 1st
May, 1972. Respondent no. 1 an-independent candidate secured the highest number
of votes, namely 61, whereas his nearest rival respondent no. 5 secured 36
votes.. The appellant Ramji Prasad Singh, a voter, filed an election petition
challenging the election of respondent no.
1 inter alia on the following two grounds:
(1) 40 voters of the Dumra Notified Ares
Committee were illegally prevented from exercising their franchise which
materially affected the result of the election.
(2) Respondent no. 1 attempted to bribe two
The Government of Bihar had nominated 40
persons to be the members of the Dumra notified Area Committee by its
notification dated 5-5-1971. All of them were duly enrolled as voters in the
electoral roll. On 4-4-1972 the State Government issued a notification
cancelling the notification dated 5-5-1971 and nominating 40 other persons
mentioned therein as members of the Dumra Notified Area Committee. In a Writ
Petition filed by some of the sitting members, the High Court passed an interim
order staying the operation of the notification dated 5-5-1971. The names of
the 40 persons who were nominated earlier were removed from the electoral roll
and it was alleged that the names of 40 new members were included. The old
members were not permitted to vote on the ground that their names were not on
the electoral roll and the new members were not permitted to vote on the ground
that the High Court had issued the stay order. Section 389 of the Bihar &
Orissa Municipal Act 7 of 1922 empowers the State Government to make
appointments to Notified Area Committee. Section 151of the Representation, of
the People Act 1950 provides that for every constituency there shall be an
electoral roll which shall be prepared in accordance with the provisions of the
Act. Section 21 deals with the preparation and revision of the electoral roll.
Section 22 provides the procedure for
correction of entries in electoral rolls. Section 23(3) provides that no amendment,
transposition, or deletion of any entry shall be made under section 22 and no
direction for the inclusion of a name in the electroal roll of a constituency
shall be given after the last date for making nominations for the election.
The High Court dismissed the election
The appellant contended:
1. Section 62(1) of the Representation of
People Act, 1951 provides that no person who is not and except as expressly
provided by this Act every person 742 who is, for the time being entered in the
electoral roll of any constituency shall be entitled to vote in that constituency
and, therefore, since the names of the 40 new persons were in the electoral
roll and since' they were illegally prevented from voting which has materially
affected the result of the election, the election must be set aside.
2. The elected candidate attempted to bribe
two voters and thereby rendered his election void under sec. 100 (1)(b) read
with sec. 123 (a)(A)(b) of the Representation of the People,Act 1951.
Dismissing the appeal,
HELD: 1. It is implicit in section 62(1) that
the name of the person who claims to be entitled to vote in a constituency must
have been entered in the electoral roll of that particular constituency in
accordance with law. If the name of a person is entered in the electoral roll
in violation of section 23(3) he can have no right to vote by reason merely of
the entitlement conferred by section 62(1). [749 A--C] Kabul Singh v. Kundan
Singh & Ors.  v.S.C.R. 845;
B.M. Ramaswamy v. B.M. Krishnamurthy and Ors.
 3 S.C.R. 479 explained.
Baidyanath, Panliar v. Sitaram Matho &
Ors.  1 SCR 839 followed.
2. The electoral roll was amended after 5th
April, which was the last date for filing the nomination. [745 G]
3. The provisions of section 23(3) are
mandatory. The Election Commission of India was within its right in withdrawing
the polling booth at the Dumra Committee office in order that the new members
may not vote at the election.
[750 B, C]
4. The charge of bribery is quasi-criminal in
nature and in a series of cases this Court has held that such a charge must be
proved not by a more preponderance of probabilities but beyond a reasonable
doubt. In the absence of any evidence of unimpeachable nature and particularly
in the absence of any contemporaneous complaint in regard to the allegation of
bribery it would be unsafe to accept the bare word of the appellant and his
witness on such a serious charge. The High Court having considered the evidence
on the question of bribery fully and carefully, this Court did not find any
reason to depart from the well established practice that except for substantial
reasons. This Court does not embark on a detailed assessment of oral evidence.
Civil Appeal No. 1147 of .1974 (From the
Judgment and Order dated 9.5.1974 of the Patna High Court in Election Petition
D. Goburdhan and L.R. Sinha, for the
Appellant D.V. Patel, U.P. Singh, R.P. Singh and S.N. Jha, for respondent No.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
CHANDRACHUD, J.--This is an appeal under section 116A of the Representation of
the People Act, 1951 from the judgment of the Patna High Court dated May 9,
1974 in Election Petition No. 42 of 1972.
On March 29. 1972 the Election Commission
issued a notification calling upon the Muzaffarpur Local Authorities
Constituency to elect one member to the Bihar Legislative Council.. That
Constituency consists of the Municipalities of Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Hajipur
and 743 Lalganj and the Notified Area Committees of Mahnur and Dumra. We are
concerned in this appeal with the Notified Area Committee of Dumra only.
According to the programme notified by the Election Commission, the last date
for filing nominations was April 5, 1972. The poll was held on April 30 and the
result of the election was declare,5 on May 1, 1972. Respondent 1 Ram Bilas
Jha, an independent candidate, secured the highest number of votes, namely 61
whereas his nearest rival respondent 5, Mahanth Raghunath Das, a Congress (R)
candidate, secured 36 votes.. Respondent 1 was accordingly declared elected.
The appellant Ramji Prasad Singh was a voter
for the election being a member or commissioner of the Sitamarhi Municipality.
On June 14, 1972 he filed an election petition in the Patna High Court
challenging the election of respondent 1 on various grounds. Before us,
appellant restricted his challenge to the following two grounds :-(1) Forty
voters of the Dumra Notified Area Committee were illegally prevented from
exercising their franchise, which materially affected the result of the
election; and (2) Respondent 1 attempted to bribe two voters, Sri Narain Prasad
and Ram Swarath Raut thereby rendering his election void under section
100(1)(b) read with section 123(1)(A)(b) of the Act of 1951.
The High Court having rejected these
contentions the election petitioner has filed this appeal.
It is necessary to state certain important
facts for a proper appreciation of the question involved in the first of the
two points mentioned above. By Notification No.
2708/LSG dated May 5, 1971 the Government of
Bihar had nominated 40 persons to be members or commissioners of the Dumra
Notified Area Committee. All of them were duly enrolled as voters in the
electoral roll of the Muzaffarpur Local Authorities constituency. On April 4,
1972 the State Government issued a Notification, No. 2934, cancelling the
notification dated May 5, 1971. By another notification, No. 2935, of even
date, viz., April 4, 1972 the State Government nominated 40 other persons named
therein as members of the Dumra Notified Area Committee.
Immediately after the issuance of the two
notifications of April 4, 1972 some of the sitting members of the Dumra N.A.
Committee, who ceased to be members by reason of these notifications, filed
writ petition No. 150 of 1972 in the Patna High Court challenging the validity
of the notifications. A rule was issued in that writ petition on April 14, 1972
and by an interim order, the operation of notification No. 2934 by which the
notification of May 5, 1971 was cancelled, was stayed till the disposal of the
744 After the High Court issued the stay
order, a petition was moved before Shri A.M. Bose, the District Magistrate of
Muzaffarpur, asking that the names of the 40 members which were removed from
the electoral roll pursuant to the notification issued by the State Government
should be reincorporated therein. Shri Bose who was functioning exofficio as
the District Election Officer, Electoral Registration Officer and the Returning
Officer for the purposes of the particular election sent a Teleprinter message
(Ex. 7) On April 21, 1972 to the Chief Electoral Officer, Patna, stating that
since the last date filing nominations was long since past, the names of the
old members which were already removed from the electoral roll could not be
reincorporated therein but that it would be in contempt of the High Court if
elections were to be held on the basis of the amended roll, as the High COurt
had stayed the operation of the notification issued by the Government on April
4, 1972 cancelling the notification of May 5, 1971.
"In this anomalous situation", Shri
Bose asked the Chief Electoral Officer to seek the instructions of the ELection
Commission of India. By his Telex message (Ex.8), the Chief Electoral Officer
sought the directions of the Election Commission which opined that since the
old members could not vote as their names were not on the electoral roll and
since the new members also could not vote because of the stay order issued by
the High Court, the polling station at the Dumra Notified Area Committee office
should be withdrawn and cancelled. Pursuant to this directive, there was no
polling booth where the members of the Dumra Committee could cast their votes.
Consequently, neither the old 40 members whose names were removed from the
electoral roll nor the new 40 members whose names were included therein could
cast their votes in the election held on April 30. It is on this background
that the election petitioner raised the point that the new 40 members were
illegally prevented from exercising their franchise and that such prevention
had materially affected the result of the election as those members would have
voted for respondent 5, the Congress (R) candidate.
It may, we think, be accepted that the 40
newly enrolled members, had they been permitted to cast their votes, would have
mostly voted for respondent 5. Thirty-four out of the 40 were examined as
witnesses and they protested their loyalty to respondent 5. Out of these 34
witnesses, 27 are members of Congress (R) and though defections cannot be
totally ruled out, there is no reason to discard their evidence that they were
pledged to support respondent 5 who was their party candidate. It may be
assumed that members of the party would not have disobeyed the mandate issued
by the Provincial and District Congress Committees through circular letters,
Exs. 3 and 3/a, that they must vote for the party candidate, respondent 5. The
remaining 7 out of the 34 may be taken at their word that they would have voted
for respondent 5 since they thought that he was the most eligible candidate
amongst the contestants. There is also evidence showing that the newly enrolled
members had gone to the polling station to cast their votes but had to return
without exercising their franchise as there was no booth where they could cast
745 The question which then remains to be
considered is whether the newly enrolled members of the Dumra Committee were
prevented illegally from casting their votes in the poll of 30th April. The
power to make appointments to Notified Area Committee's is derived by the State
Government under section 389 of the Bihar and Orissa Municipal Act, 7 of 1922.
That section provides by clause (c) that the State Government may by
notification appoint a Committee or make rules for the appointment or election
of a Committee for carrying out the purposes of the Municipal Act in the Notified
Area. The notifications of May 5, 1971 and April 4, 1972 nominating 40 persons
as members or commissioners of the Dumra Notified Area Committee were issued by
the Government of Bihar in exercise of the power conferred by section 389(c).
The State Government did have the power to issue the 2nd notification as much
as the first and their jurisdiction in that behalf has not been questioned.
An interesting question however arises by
reason of the provisions contained in the Representation of the People Act, 43
of 1950. Section 15 of that Act provides that for every constituency there
shall be an electoral roll which shall be prepared in accordance with the provisions
of the Act under the superintendence, direction and control of the Election
Commission. Section 16 prescribes disqualifications for registration in an
electoral roll. Section 21 dels with the preparation and revision of the
electoral roll. Section 22 prescribes a procedure for correction of entries in
electoral rolls and section 24 provides for an appeal from any order passed
under section 22. Section 23(3) which has an important bearing on the point
raised behalf of the election petitioner reads thus :-"23. (3) No
amendment, transposition or deletion of any entry shall be made under section
22 and no direction for the inclusion of a name in the electoral roll of a
constituency shah be given under this section, after the last date for making
nominations for an election in that constituency or in the parliamentary
constituency within which that constituency is comprised and before the
completion of 'that election." As mentioned. above the State Government
issued two notifications on April 4, 1972, one by which the earlier
notification of May 5, 1971 was cancelled and the other making fresh
appointments of 40 members to the Dumra Notified Area Committee. As a result of
these notifications (Exs. 10A and 10 respectively), it became necessary for the
Electoral Registration Officer to delete from the electoral roll the names of
40 persons who were appointed under the notification of May 5, 1971 and to.
include in their place the names of the 40 new members who were appointed to
the Committee under the Notification (Ex. 10) of April 4, 1972.
But these corrections or amendments could
not, by reason of section 23(3), be made after April 5, 1972 which was the last
date for making nominations to the election. No direction also could have been
given for the inclusion of these names in the electoral roll, after the last
date for making nominations. The point, thus, for consideration is whether the
746 amendment to the electoral roll was made in the instant case by
incorporating the names of the 40 new members therein on or before the 5th
April or whether the roll was amended after the expiry of that date. If the
roll was amended after the 5th April, the inclusion of the new names would be
clearly in breach of the mandate contained in section 23(3) of the Act of 1950
and therefore beyond the jurisdiction of the Electoral Registration Officer.
The best evidence on this question would of course be of Shri Bose himself who,
being the District Magistrate of Muzaffarpur, was functioning ex-officio as the
Electoral Registration Officer.
Ex. 1 is the electoral roll for 1972 on the
basis of which the biennial election to the Bihar Legislative Assembly from the
Muzaffarpur Local Authorities constituency was held in this case. The names of
the 40 members of the Dumra Notified Area Committee who were appointed under
Notification No. 2935 (Ex. 10) dated April 4, 1972 are included in that roll at
Serial Nos. 31 to 70. These names, according to the learned counsel of the
election petitioner, were entered in the roll soon after the Electoral
Registration Officer received the two notifications (Exs. 10 and 10A) which was
at about 8-15 a.m. on. the 5th April. On the other hand, learned counsel for
respondent 1 says that in the very nature of things the names could not have
been entered in the electoral roll before the expiry of the crucial date, 5th
April. At best, according to him, the names might have been entered in the roll
on the 6th.
It seems to us impossible to accept the
contention of the election petitioner that the names of the new members were
entered in the electoral roll immediately after Shri Bose, the Electoral
Registration Officer, received the notifications Exs. 10 and 10A dated April 4.
It is true that Shri Bose received these notifications through a special
messenger on the 5th at about 8-15 a.m. But he says in his evidence that
immediately after receiving the notifications, he endorsed them to the
Assistant District Electoral Officer and then to the Deputy Collector in charge
of the General Section for necessary action. He has further stated that he
could not have taken any action for including the names of the new members in
the electoral roll on the strength of the notifications because, in so far as
he knew, an amendment in the electoral roll could not be made unless a list of
members for inclusion in the electoral roll was received by him from the
Chairman of the local body concerned. That unquestionably is the true legal
position because under section 27(2)(d) of the Representation of the People Act,
1950 it is the duty of the Chief Executive Officer of every local authority (by
whatever designation he may be known) to inform the Electoral Registration
Officer immediately about every change in the membership of the local
authority, in order to enable the Electoral Registration Officer to maintain
the electoral roll corrected up-to-date. The section further provides that on
receipt of such information the Electoral Registration Officer shall strike off
from the electoral roll the names of persons who have ceased to be and include
therein the names of persons who have become, members of the 747 particular
local authority. Shri Bose, therefore, could not have included the new names in
the electoral roll merely on the strength of the Government notifications which
he received on the morning of the 5th. For doing so, he had to await an
official communication from the Chief Executive Officer of the Dumra Notified
At the relevant time Shri Durga Prasad, the
Sub-Divisional Officer of Sitamarhi, District Muzaffarpur, was functioning
ex-officio as the Chairman of the Dumra Notified Area Committee and was
therefore the "Chief executive officer" of that local authority,
within the meaning of section 27(2)(d) of the Act of 1950. Just as Shri Bose
had received the two Government notifications on the 5th, so had Shri Durga
Prasad. On receiving the notifications he convened an 'emergent meeting' of the
newly nominated members of the Dumra Committee which, as shown by the
proceedings Ex. E, was held in the Committee's office at 8 p.m. on the 5th.
Shri Durga Prasad has stated in his evidence
that after the meeting was over he sent a letter (No. 62) to Shri Bose stating
that the old list of members should be treated as cancelled and the names of members
mentioned in the new list should be included in the electoral roll. Shri Bose
has stated in his evidence that he received that letter (Ex. A/3) at 11-30 p.m.
through a special messenger and in token thereof made an appropriate
endorsement on it. That endorsement is Ex. J which shows that the letter was
received at 11-30 p.m. on the 5th April, Shri Bose also made another
endorsement (Ex. K) on that letter saying that in the new list of members sent
along with the letter Ex. A/3, the addresses members at Serial Nos. 8, 16 and
29 to 37 were not noted. Shri Bose has testified to these endorsements in his
Column No. 5 of the Electoral Roll requires
the specification of the authority on the basis of which the names of voters
are incorporated in the Electoral Roll. In regard to the names of the 40 new
members with which we are concerned in this appeal, the authorisation for
including their names in the roll is stated as letter No. 62 dated April 5,
1972 of the Chairman of the Dumra Notified Area Committee. That letter, as
stated above, was received by the Electoral Registration Officer at 11-30 p.m.
on the 5th.
The fact of the receipt of Shri Durga
Prasad's letter by Shri Bose at 11-30 p.m. on the 5th and the entry in column 5
of the Electoral roll that the new names were incorporated therein on the
authority of that letter make it impossible to accept the half-hearted claim of
Shri Bose that he had passed orders for inclusion of the new names on the 5th
itself. Time was running fast and only half an hour was left for the last date
to expire for making amendments in the electoral roll.. The endorsement, Ex. K,
made by Shri Bose on letter No. 62 Ex. A/3, shows that he treated the list of
members as incomplete in necessary particulars since the addresses of certain
members were not mentioned in the list. Shri Bose did not make any endorsement
on the letter, which he would in the normal course of business do, directing
that the names of new members contained in the list accompanying the letter
should be incorporated in the roll. In fact 16--1234SCI/76 748 the letter was
"diarised" by Shri Bose's office on the 6th.
Even on the 6th, when an endorsement was made
on the letter regarding its diarisation in the relevant office file, the letter
did not bear any direction of the Electoral Registration Officer that the new
names should be included in the electoral roll. The fact of the matter seems to
be that the notifications of the 4th April came too late for being acted upon
before the dead-line, which was the 5th. The red tape moved slowly, the due
date expired and then everyone awoke to the necessity of curing the infirmity
by hurrying with the implementation of the notifications. But it was too late
and the law had already put its seal on the electoral roll as it existed on the
5th April. It could not be touched thereafter, until the completion of the
The entry at Serial No. 33 in the letter, Ex.
M, on which the appellant relies to show that orders were issued on the 5th
itself for inclusion of new names in the electoral roll is ambiguous and
relates, in all probability, to the superseded list of May 5, 1971. The
Assistant District Election Officer who is the author of the letter was not
examined in the case and Shri Bose to whom the letter was addressed has
admitted very fairly that he is "doubtful about serial No. 33" in Ex.
Coupled with these facts is the evidence of
witnesses from the Government Printing Press showing that the notification, Ex.
10, by which the appointment of new members was made was printed and published
on April 7, 1972. Evidently, there was inadequate response to the urgency of
the processual matters governing the electoral process.
We must, however, make it clear in fairness
to Shri Durga Prasad and Shri Bose, that neither of them is to be blamed for
non-inclusion of the names in the electoral roll within the appointed time.
They acted with the promptitude possible in the circumstances and the mishap
occurred mainly because of the last-minute decision of the Government to cancel
the previous notification and to issue a new one in its place. The new
notification, Ex. 10, was lacking in essential particulars and in transposing
some of the not so easily identifiable names of new members to the electoral roll,
whether it was done on the 6th, 7th or later, the Electoral Officers did the
best of a bad bargain.
We see no substance in the argument that
since the new names have found their way into the electoral roll, the entries
are conclusive of the right of those members to vote at the election and
accordingly, the Court has no power or jurisdiction to go behind the entries
and inquire into their validity. In support of this argument the appellant's
counsel relies principally on section 62(1) of the Representation of the People
Act, 1951 which provides that "No person who is not, and except as
expressly provided by this Act, every person who is, for the time being entered
in the electoral roll of any constituency shall be entitled to vote in that
constituency." This sub-section may be split up into. two parts so as to
make its meaning and intendment clear. It provides, in the first ..place, that
a person Who is not entered in an electoral roll of a constituency shall not be
entitled to vote in 749 that constituency. Secondly it provides that, except as
expressly provided by the Act, every person who is for the time being entered
in the electoral roll of any constituency shall be entitled to vote in that
constituency. It is implicit in these provisions that the name of the person
who claims to be entitled to vote in a constituency must have been entered in
the electoral roll of that particular constituency in accordance with law.
Section 23(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 provides that no
amendment, transposition or deletion of any entry shall be made and no
direction for the inclusion of a name in the electoral roll of a constituency
shall be given after the last date for making nominations for an election in
that constituency and before the completion of the election. If the name of a
person is entered in the electoral roll in violation of the mandate contained
in this section, he can have no right to vote by reason merely of the
entitlement conferred by section 62(1) of the Act of 1951. Putting it briefly,
the words "for the time being entered in the electoral roll" in
section 62( 1 ) of the Act of 1951 must be taken to mean "for the time
being entered in the electoral roll in accordance with law." Learned
counsel for the appellant invited our attention to a decision of this Court in
Kabul Singh v. Kundan Singh & Ors. (1) which says that in view of section
30 of the Act of 1950, entries found in the electoral roll are final and that
no civil court has jurisdiction to entertain or adjudicate upon any question as
to whether any person is or is not entitled to be registered in an electoral
roll for a constituency or to question the legality of any action taken by or
under the authority of an Electoral Registration Officer or of any decision
given by any authority appointed under the Act for the revision of any such
roll. In B.M. Ramaswamy v. B.M. Krishnamurthy and Ors.(2) also this Court had
come to the conclusion that the finality of the electoral roll cannot be
challenged in a proceeding in which the validity of the election is questioned.
These decisions cannot assist the appellant for two reasons. Firstly, the
question which arises for consideration before us is not whether any one or
more of the 40 members whose names are included in Ex. 10 are entitled to be
registered in the electoral roll. The question is, assuming that they are so
entitled, were their named entered in the roll within the time limited by law?
Secondly, the legality of the action taken by the Electoral Registration Officer
in entering the new names in the roll after the expiry of the last date for
making nominations, was in issue before High Court in the Election Petition
itself filed by the appellant, under section 81 of the Act of 1951, Section
30(b) of the Act of 1950 cannot affect the jurisdiction of the High Court,
while dealing with an election petition, to set aside an election on the
grounds mentioned in section 100(1) of the Act of 1951, one of which is that
the result of the election was materially affected by the improper reception,
refusal or rejection of any vote. There is a clear distinction between a
challenge to the right of a voter to be registered in an electoral roll and the
jurisdiction of an authority appointed under the Act to enter a name in the
That jurisdiction has perforce to be
(1)  1 S.C.R. 845. (2)  3 S.C.R.
750 consistently with the provisions of the
law governing the election and in case there is failure to do so, the action of
the officer would be open to challenge on the ground of want of jurisdiction.
If, as here, the electoral roll is amended after the time-limit set down in
section 23(3) of the Act of 1950, the amendment would be without jurisdiction
conferring no right to vote on the persons whose names are thus included in the
roll. As held by this Court in Baidyanath Panjiar v. Sitaram Mahto & Ors.,
C) the provision contained in section 23 (3) is mandatory not merely because of
the language employed in that sub-section but more so in view of the purpose
behind the particular provision. The sub-section does not deal with any mode or
procedure in the matter of registering voters. It interdicts the concerned
officer from interfering with the electoral process under the prescribed
circumstances. Therefore, when there is a breach of section 23(3), the question
is not of an irregular exercise of power but of the lack of power itself.
It is thus clear that the Election Commission
of India was within its rights in withdrawing the polling booth at the Dumra
Committee office in order that the new members may not vote at the election.
The reason which weighed with the Election Commission were evidently different
but its ultimate decision can seek its justification in what we have stated
above. It is unfortunate that the existing 40 members of the Committee also
were prevented from voting but they did not complain of the deprivation of
their franchise, probably because they thought that their names, in any case,
were deleted from the roll on the 5th itself.
It is a sad reflection that the sitting
members of the Dumra Committee should have been dismembered on the eve of the
elections, apparently without rhyme or reason. The State Government undoubtedly
possesses the power under section 389(c) of the Bihar and Orissa Municipal Act,
1922, to make appointments to the Notified Area Committees but that power, it
ought to be remembered, must be exercised' for carrying out the purposes of
that Act, not for defeating them. The issuance of the two notifications on the
penultimate day, the feverish activity following in their wake and the unseemly
haste and hurry with which the enrolment of new members was attempted to be
rushed through on the eventful evening of the 5th April lend great weight to
the contention of respondent 1's counsel that the cancellation of the old
members and their replacement by the new ones was motivated by considerations
foreign to the good governance of the Area Committee. We feel greatly uneasy
that local machinations should have eventually led in this case to a denial of
the valuable right of franchise to the whole body of 40 members who constituted
the Area Committee. Such occurrences, we hope, will not happen once too often.
If they do, the power of the State Governments to make appointments to Area Committees
will itself become suspect, sapping thereby the faith of the people in the
working of what are believed to be the nurseries of democracies.
That leaves the second of the two contentions
to be considered, namely, that respondent s election is vitiated because he
attempted to (1)  1 S.C.R. 839.
751 bribe the voters Sri Narain Prasad and
Ram Swarath Raut.
Having considered the evidence of these two
witnesses who are respectively P.Ws. 11 and 71 and the evidence of the appellant
himself, it seems to us impossible to accept the allegation of bribery. The two
witnesses, P.Ws. 11 and 71, are members of a local authority and it is unlikely
that an attempt would be made to bribe them. In the absence of any evidence of
unimpeachable nature and particularly in the absence of any contemporaneous
complaint in regard to the allegation of bribery, it would be unsafe to accept
the bare word of the appellant and his witnesses on such a serious charge. The
charge of bribery is quasicriminal in nature and in a series of cases this
Court has held that such a charge must be proved not by a mere preponderance,of
probabilities but beyond a reasonable doubt. That proof is tacking here.
Besides, the High Court has considered the evidence on the question of bribery
fully and carefully and we do not see any reason for departing from our
established practice that, except for substantial reasons, this Court will not
embark upon a detailed assessment of oral evidence.
In the result, the appeal fails and is
dismissed with costs in favour of respondent 1.
P.H.P. Appeal dismissed.