New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea by BJP candidate Muniraju Gowda from Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituency in 2018 Karnataka assembly polls against the order of the High Court rejecting his plea to declare him as elected from the seat on ground of alleged corrupt practice adopted by the then winning Congress candidate Munirathna. A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said that the order of the High Court does not call for any interference. Bypoll in Rajarajeshwari Nagar (RR Nagar) constituency of the state will be held on November 3, as the winning candidate Munirathna was in 2019 disqualified by Speaker along with some other Congress MLAs after his resignation from the house. Munirathna and 15 other disqualified MLAs later joined Bhartiya Janta Party. The bench said that in the election petition before the high court, as it was originally filed, there was no averment of material facts traceable to the provisions of Representation of the People Act (RP Act). “Once it is found that neither the original election petition nor the amended election petition contains any pleading of material facts which would enable the High Court to form an opinion in terms of Section 101 (of RP Act), there was no alternative for the High Court but to strike off prayer (c) (to declare Gowda as duly elected from the seat)," the bench said. It said that under provisions of the RP Act, an election petition should contain a concise statement of material facts, which forms the bedrock of such petition and what constitutes “material facts” would depend upon the ground on which the election of a returned candidate is challenged. The bench noted the arguments of senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Gowda that despite disqualification and resignation of Munirathna, the BJP leader can still pursue his prayer for declaring that then Congress candidate had indulged in corrupt practice under RP Act and then he should be declared as winner of the assembly seat. The bench said, “Technically, the learned Senior Counsel is right, since the involvement of a person in corrupt practices, in an election, does not get washed away, by his subsequent resignation”. It noted that when the results were announced, Gowda secured 82, 572 votes and Munirathna was declared to have secured 1,08,064 votes. “Therefore, in terms of Section 101 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 the election petitioner should satisfy: that he received a majority of the valid votes; or that but for the votes obtained by the returned candidate by corrupt practices, he would have obtained a majority of the valid votes,” it said. The top court said that even otherwise the High Court could not declare Gowda as winner of the assembly seat as there were 14 candidates in fray. It referred to a constitution bench verdict of 1969 and said that court had cautioned that “the rule for the exclusion of the votes secured by corrupt practices by the returned candidate in the computation of the total votes and the consequential declaration of the candidate who secured the next highest number of votes as duly elected, can be applied only when there are just two candidates at an election”.
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