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HC dismisses Dikkanchi’s poll petition against Conrad

Debate in election healthy process of democracy: Judge SR Sen

SHILLONG: In a setback to the Congress, the High Court of Meghalaya on Thursday dismissed the pending election petition filed by Congress legislator Dikkanchi D Shira, who unsuccessfully contested against NPP candidate Conrad Sangma for the by-poll to Tura Lok Sabha seat held in May this year.
Shira, the wife of Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, filed the petition in the High Court stating that Conrad won the election by using unfair means to confuse voters about the distribution of money under MGNREGS and also blamed the State government led by her husband for the delay in release of funds.
According to the petitioner, Conrad polluted the minds of the electorate and exerted undue influence on them as defined under Section 123 (2) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, and hence his election should be declared as void.
During the campaigns, Conrad had questioned the two-year delay by the State government in releasing the money under MGNREGS.
Later, when the there was a move to release the money by the State government prior to the by-election, Conrad had petitioned the Election Commission, which directed the State government to defer the payment.
However, after analysing the matter, the Election Commission finally allowed disbursement of the MGNREGS funds to job card holders four days prior to the polling date on May 16.
Following the petition, three hearings were held in the Court before the final judgment was delivered on Thursday.
Judge SR Sen in his order said that after perusal of the pleadings and the arguments advanced by the counsels for petitioner KC Mittal and respondent A. Kashyap, and also on perusal of the copy of the speech transcripts during the campaign and taking into consideration the provision of Section 123 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 and the guidelines given by the Apex Court, he could not satisfy himself nor he is in a position to record the reason that such speeches amount to undue influence and thereby affected the result of the election.
The Judge said the contents of the petition do not establish undue influence against the applicant/respondent.
“Hence, I do not find any cause of action to proceed further with the case,” he said.
According to the Court, the debate at the time of election, which points out the faults of the government, is part of a healthy process of democracy and that cannot be considered as an undue influence.
“As a result, the election petition is not maintainable and hence it is dismissed and stands disposed of,” the Court observed.
The Court also added that on perusal of the provision of Section 123 (2) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, it is understood that to bring a person, who indulges in undue influence, there must be direct or indirect interference or attempt to interfere on the part of the candidate or his agent so as to divert their minds for free exercise of their electoral rights.
“In this case also, there is nothing available in the pleading or the argument that the respondent has bribed any of the electoral voters or threatened them, so that they can cast their votes in favour of the respondent. Therefore, on scanning of the speech transcripts, I could not find or satisfy myself or record any reason that Conrad K. Sangma can be brought within the parameter of Section 123 of the Representation of People Act, 1951,” the Judge added.

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