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The petitions filed by BJP’s N Haridas and Nivedida Subramaniam and AIADMK’s RM Dhanalakshmi were dismissed on Monday.

Kerala HC dismisses NDA candidates plea challenging nomination rejection
news 2021 Kerala Assembly Election Monday, March 22, 2021 - 16:28

In what could be a setback for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the upcoming Kerala Assembly elections, the Kerala High Court dismissed the petitions filed by three of their candidates, challenging the rejection of their nominations, on Monday. The Election Commission had earlier rejected the nominations filed by two candidates from the BJP and the one candidate from AIADMK on the grounds that their forms did not have the signature of their state party president.

The petitions filed by N Haridas and Nivedida Subramaniam, the BJP candidates for Thalassery (Kannur) and Guravayoor (Thirssur) Assembly constituencies respectively, were dismissed. The petition filed by RM Dhanalakshmi, the candidate of AIADMK (NDA ally) from the Devikulam Assembly constituency in Idukki, was also dismissed.

On Monday, the single bench of justice N Nagersh said that the court cannot interfere with decisions taken by the Returning Officers (ROs) to reject nomination papers on grounds of not fulfilling mandatory requirements. The bench said that once the election process starts, the court cannot intervene.

The Kerala High Court on Sunday had asked the Election Commission to file a counter affidavit to the petitions filed by the candidates. On Monday, the ECI told the court that judicial interference in poll matters is barred after elections are notified under Article 329 B of the constitution. The ECI stated that the signature of the party president was a mandatory requirement under the Rules, and its absence is a substantive defect. Such disputes can only be resolved as per the statutory remedies after the culmination of the election.

While rejecting the nomination of Haridas, the RO had cited that Form A submitted along with the nomination did not carry the signature of the President/Secretary of BJP. Rejecting Nivedida's nomination, the RO cited that Form B did not have the signature of the party president.

Form A is the intimation given by the president or secretary of the political party to the Returning Officer, regarding the person authorised by the party. Form B is the intimation given by the authorised person of the party regarding the candidate sponsored by the party.

Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocates S Sreekumar and K Ramkumar argued that the Retuning Officers in both cases acted illegally by rejecting the nominations on basis of technical defects, which were curable. They also argued that Returning Officers acted with undue hate and without affording the candidates the opportunity to rectify the defects. The lawyers contended that the absence of signatures was not fatal and sought the court to direct the Returning Officers to accept the nomination, reported Live Law.

The lawyers argued that the bar against judicial interference was not applicable and that the petitioners were not challenging the election process. The lawyers said that the court has the power under Article 226 of the Constitution to interfere with the arbitrary orders of the Returning Officers, which, in this case, has infringed upon the rights of the petitioners.

Appearing for the AIADMK candidate, advocate PB Krishnan argued that the Returning Officers have the power to allow rectification of such defects and also pointed out that similar defects were allowed to be rectified in other constituencies. The lawyer pointed out that under Article 324 C, the Election Commission of India could order corrections of arbitrary exercise of powers by Returning Officers.

With the dismissal of the petitions, the NDA will not have candidates for the Thalassery, Guravayoor and Devikulam Assembly constituencies. However, the candidates can still approach the Supreme Court to seek legal remedy. Kerala will go to the polls on April 6.

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