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Judicial Intervention and Article 329(b)

  • Context (TP): The SC agreed with the Election Commission (EC) that Article 329(b) barred judicial intervention and adjourned ADR’s plea to direct the EC to publish turnout data.
  • The ADR filed an application asking the EC to publish booth-wise voter turnout and Form 17C vote tallies online within 48 hours of each Lok Sabha polling phase.
  • EC invoked Article 329(b) because, in its view, the application filed by the ADR amounted to questioning the electoral process while it was on.
  • According to the EC, this could only be done under a statutory framework, as envisaged in Article 329(b), which is filing an election petition under the RPA, 1951.

What is Article 329(b)

  • It is enshrined in Part XV of the IC, articles 324-329 specifically discuss elections.
  • Article 329, which has two clauses, concerns itself with the role of the judiciary in electoral matters.

Article 329 (a)

  • The “judiciary is not allowed to challenge the constitutionality of laws relating to the boundaries of electoral districts or the allocation of seats.

Article 329 (b)

  • Any challenges to the conduct or results of elections to the Houses of Parliament or state legislatures must be made through a designated legal process that is referred to as an “election petition”.
  • The 1966 Constitution (19th Amendment) Act refined Article 329(b), stating that election inquiries must be addressed through election petitions to the designated authority.
  • The RPA, 1951 empowers HCs to decide election petitions, with decisions appealable to the SC.

Court Judgements on Art 329 (b) & Judicial Intervention

SC in K. Venkatachalam vs A.Swamickan, 1999

  • Article 329(b) is inapplicable if the matter pertains to Articles 191 and 193, which deal with disqualifications and penalties related to parliamentary and legislative assembly membership, respectively.
  • It further held that the word “election” would include every process of proceedings after the issuance of election notification.

SC in Inderjit Barua vs ECI, 1985

  • Excluded electoral roll preparation from the definition of “election.” It further said that no election could be challenged on the grounds of defects in electoral rolls.

Gujarat HC in N.C. Patel vs State of Gujarat, 2007

  • It affirmed that election petitions can only be filed under the RPA, 1951, and not by way of a writ petition.

Allahabad HC in Hari Krishna Lal vs Atal Bihari Bajpai, 2002

  • Only candidates officially recognised by the EC are eligible to file election petitions.
  • By merely filing a nomination paper, a person does not become a duly nominated candidate.
  • A candidate becomes a nominated candidate when the EC recognises him to be a valid candidate fulfilling all the statutory obligations.
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