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Report No. 255

Chapter X

Election Petitions

A. History

10.1. Article 329(b) of the Constitution provides for the election petition to be presented to the authority prescribed by law.

10.2. Initially, Article 324(1) of the Constitution specified that ECI shall be vested with the authority for appointing election tribunals to decide election-related disputes. Consequently, section 81 of the RPA required all election petitions to be presented to the ECI, which had the power under section 86 to appoint election tribunals. In 1956, the composition of these tribunals was changed from three members, comprising sitting or retired district judges or advocates with 10 years standing to a single member, being a sitting or retired district judge.

Nevertheless, the ECI found this system ineffective, given the inordinate delay in the trial of election petitions, caused partly due to the regular challenge of the tribunals' interlocutory orders before the High Courts vide Articles 226-227, and sometimes even before the Supreme Court. Mendiratta, supra note 161, at 1053-1054. See also Hari Vishnu Kamath v. Ahmed Ishaque, 10 ELR 216 on the issue of interlocutory challenge and Article 329(b)

10.3. This led to the amendment of Article 324(1) and sections 81 and 86, RPA by the Constitution (Nineteenth Amendment) Act, 1966 and the Representation of People (Amendment) Act, 1966 respectively to remove the ECI's jurisdiction to hear election petitions and vest it with (ordinarily) a single judge of the High Court in Krishnan Gopal v. Prakash Chandra, AIR 1974 SC 209, the Supreme Court held that a retired High Court judge, requested by the Chief Justice of the High Court to serve as judge under Article 224A, and whose appointment was consented to by the President, could also hear election petitions.

However, the Supreme Court expressed a preference for a permanent judge of the High Court, vide the newly inserted section 80A, RPA. The aim was to expedite the disposal of election petitions, as is evident from section 86(7), which envisages an endeavour to conclude the trial within six months. Section 86 provides that the Chief Justice will refer the election petition presented before the High Court to the judge or one of the judges assigned by them for the 'trial' of election petitions.

Although in 1975 the Constitution was further amended to insert Article 329A to stipulate that election petitions relating to the Prime Minister or the Lok Sabha Speaker would be filed before the ECI and tried by a special authority consisting of a sitting Supreme Court judge, Article 329A was deleted in 1978.436.

436. Mendiratta, supra note 161, at 1055

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