Report No. 255
18.9. Election Petitions
Wide-ranging reforms have been suggested to Part VI of the RPA dealing with "disputes regarding elections" and the proposed amendments have been drafted in the annexure appended to this Report. These include, inter alia:
a. The introduction of one or more "election benches" in each High Court, designated so by the Chief Justice of the particular High Court, exercising jurisdiction over all election disputes under the RPA. A single Judge shall ordinarily exercise such jurisdiction, although the Chief Justice can assign more judges, if they so desire.
b. The procedure for presenting election petitions should be made simpler and less formalistic by:
i. requiring election petitions to be ordinarily filed in the Principal seat of the relevant High Court, although this can be shifted to another bench or place in the interest of justice;
ii. removing requirement of impleading those candidates who have lost their security deposit as respondents to an election petition, if the petitioner makes an additional declaration that he himself or any candidate has been duly elected; and
iii. removing non-compliance with section 117's stipulation of security for costs as a ground for summarily dismissal under section 86.
c. The trial of election petitions by the election bench of the High Court should be expedited by providing for
i. daily trial;
ii. minimising adjournments, with the possibility of imposing exemplary costs;
iii. a time limit of 45 days to file a written statement, with a further extension of 15 days, after which such right shall be forfeited;
d. The trial should be concluded within six months from the date of presentation of the petition; otherwise, a report should be sent to the Chief Justice of the High Court explaining the reasons for the delay.
e. The election bench of the High Court should pass its order under section 98 within ninety days from the conclusion of arguments.
f. A new provision, section 98A, should be inserted pertaining to the collection of data (such as the number of election petitions filed and pending, the status of each petition, the names of the parties, and designated election bench) by the High Court and uploading it on its website. The ECI has been mandated to prepare an annual report after compiling such data from all the High Courts across the country.
g. Appeals to the Supreme Court should now only be on the basis of a question of law, instead of the earlier provision permitting questions of fact or law as grounds for appeal. This appeal should be filed within 30 days of the High Court's order, although an extension of a maximum of 30 more days can be granted, with nothing thereafter. The Supreme Court should try and conclude the appeal within three months from the date of appeal.
h. The security for costs has been increased from the existing Rs. 2000 to Rs. 10,000, although section 117 has been amended to empower the election bench of the High Court to grant an extension of time, as considered reasonable, to deposit this new security amount.