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Judgments of Supreme Court of India and High Courts

The State Of Goa vs Fouziya Imtiaz Shaikh on 12 March, 2021

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REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 881 OF 2021
(@ SLP (CIVIL) NO.3937 OF 2021)

STATE OF GOA ANR. …APPELLANTS
VERSUS

FOUZIYA IMTIAZ SHAIKH ANR. …RESPONDENTS

WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 882 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4131/2021)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 883 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4121/2021)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 884 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4138/2021)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 885 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4100/2021)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 886 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4200/2021)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 887 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4201/2021)
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by R
Natarajan
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 888 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4219/2021)
Date: 2021.03.12
16:01:03 IST
Reason:

1
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 889 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4160/2021)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 890 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4360/2021)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 891 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4362/2021)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 892 OF 2021
(@ SLP(C) NO. 4361/2021)

W.P.(C) NO. 309/2021

JUDGMENT

R.F. Nariman, J

1. IA No. 35153/2021 in SLP(C) No. 3937/2021 being an application for

intervention is allowed. Leave granted in all the Special Leave

Petitions.

2. The present batch of civil appeals raise important questions on the

provisions contained in Part IXA of the Constitution of India. The Goa

State Election Commission [“SEC”] decided to postpone the elections

to 11 Municipal Councils whose terms were to expire on 04.11.2020.

The elections were scheduled to be held on 18.10.2020, which were

postponed to 18.01.2021 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic situation

2
in the State of Goa. On 03.11.2020, the Governor of Goa appointed

the Law Secretary of the Government of Goa, a member of the IAS, as

State Election Commissioner which duties were to be in addition to his

duties as Law Secretary. By an order dated 05.11.2020, Municipal

Administrators were appointed by the Department of Urban

Development (Municipal Administration) for all these municipal councils

whose terms had expired. By a notification dated 14.01.2021, the Goa

SEC further postponed the election for a period of three months i.e., till

April, 2021 or the election date which may be determined by the

Commission.

3. On 04.02.2021, the State of Goa published an amendment to Section

10(1) of the Goa Municipalities Act, 1968 [“Goa Municipalities Act”] in

the official gazette, by which the time frame for issuance of a

notification for reservation of wards was stated as being “at least seven

days” before the notification for schedule of dates and events of the

elections. On the same day, the Director of Municipal Administration

issued an order for reservation of wards for 11 municipal councils

within the State of Goa. We are informed by the SEC that on

05.02.2021, electoral rolls were prepared and returning officers

appointed for an ensuing election.

3

4. Meanwhile, being aggrieved by the order dated 04.02.2021, 9 writ

petitions were filed before the High Court of Bombay at Goa between

09.02.2021 and 12.02.2021 challenging the aforesaid order on various

grounds. By a separate writ petition, being W.P. No.92/2021, the

amendment to Section 10(1) also came to be challenged. This matter

is pending hearing and final disposal before the High Court, and has

been segregated from the other writ petitions which were disposed of

by the High Court.

5. On 15.02.2021, the writ petitions came up for hearing and the High

Court was pleased to list the matters for final disposal on 22.02.2021. It

is stated by Shri Nadkarni, learned Senior Advocate appearing on

behalf of first Respondent in civil appeal arising out of SLP(C) No.

3937/2021, that this was done with the understanding between the

parties that the election schedule would not be notified till the disposal

of the writ petitions.

6. On 22.02.2021, as the Division Bench at Goa commenced the hearing

of the petitions, a notification of the same date, time being 9.00 a.m.,

was presented to the Goa Bench, by which elections to the 11

municipal councils commenced. The petitions were then taken up and

4
heard by the learned Division Bench. Two judgments were delivered,

one by Bharati Dangre, J., and one by M.S.Sonak, J. After discussing

in some detail the relevant constitutional and statutory provisions and

the judgments of this Court and the Bombay High Court, the Division

Bench allowed the writ petitions as follows:

“81. In the wake of the above reasoning, we pass the
following order:

(a) Writ Petition No. 515 of 2021 (filing) is dismissed.

(b) Writ Petition No.85 of 2021, 86 of 2021, 87/2021,
88/2021, 90/2021, 91/2021, 524/2021 (Filing) and 525/2021
(Filing) are hereby allowed. The impugned order dated
04/02/2021 issued by the Director and ex-officio Additional
Secretary, Municipal Administrator/ Urban Development,
Goa in so far as it concerned the Municipal Council of
Sanguem, Mormugao, Mapusa, Margao and Quepem is
quashed and set aside.

(c) By a Writ of Mandamus, we direct the Director and ex-
officio Additional Secretary, Municipal Administrator/ Urban
Development, Goa to issue fresh Notification under sub-
section 1 of Section 9 r/w. Subsection 1 of Section 10 of the
Goa Municipalities Act, 1968 within a period of 10 days from
today, thereby ensuring inter alia, reservation for women of
not less than one-third of the total number of seats reserved
for direct elections to the Municipal Councils.

(d) While exercising the power afresh and rectifying the
gross illegalities pointed out in our judgment and order, the
Director shall give due weightage to our observations made
therein.

5

(e) The State Election Commission of Goa is directed to
expeditiously notify the election programme, on the order for
reservation of seats in the Municipal Councils being issued
by the Director, Respondent No.2 and the State Election
Commission shall align the schedule of election in a
manner, to ensure its completion by fixing up its various
stages as per the Goa Municipalities (Election) Rules, 1969
and the culmination of the process on or before 15th
April,2021.

(f) No order as to costs.”

Stay, though requested for, was declined.

7. An SLP was moved by the State of Goa being SLP (C) No.3937 of

2021, and this Court, by its order dated 04.03.2021, was pleased to

observe:

“Issue notice.

Having heard Mr. Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General
for the petitioner, Mr. Atmaram NS. Nadkarni, learned Senior
Advocate for the Respondent No.1 and Mr. Abhay Anil
Anturkar, learned counsel for the Respondent No.2, we stay
the impugned direction of the High Court as well as the
Election Commission notification which is in pursuance of
the High Court judgment.

Pleadings to be completed before the next date of hearing.

List on Tuesday, the 9th March, 2021.

Liberty is granted to learned counsel to file written
arguments in the meantime.”

8. This is how the matter has been placed before us today i.e., on

6
9.3.2021. Shri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General appearing on

behalf of the State of Goa, read to us Articles 243T, 243ZA, 243ZG of

the Constitution of India and Sections 9, 10 and 22 of the Goa

Municipalities Act. The aforesaid Articles mirror Part XV of the

Constitution and thus, the judgments of this Court on Part XV are

extremely relevant.

9. According to the learned Solicitor General, first and foremost, the bar to

interference by courts in electoral matters contained in Article

243ZG(a) gets attracted as the order dated 04.02.2021 relating to

delimitation of constituencies and allotment of seats to such

constituencies is a “law” for the purposes of 243ZG(a), attracting the

constitutional bar which prohibits any court from entertaining a

challenge to the aforesaid order’s validity. For this purpose, he relied

heavily on Meghraj Kothari v. Delimitation Commission, (1967) 1

SCR 400. Even otherwise, the concession made by the learned

Advocate General in the High Court cannot bind a constitutional court

which must give effect to a constitutional bar in electoral matters, and

once the election schedule is notified, there is a complete judicial

hands-off qua challenge to such election schedule which would have

the effect, in any manner, of thwarting or postponing the aforesaid

7
election schedule. For this purpose, he relied upon the constitutional

bar contained in Article 243ZG(b), and relied on a plethora of case law

namely, N.P. Ponnuswami v. Returning Officer, Namakkal

Constituency, 1952 SCR 218, Durga Shankar Mehta v. Thakur

Raghuraj Singh, (1955) 1 SCR 267, Hari Vishnu Kamath v. Syed

Ahmad Ishaque, (1955) 1 SCR 1104, Narayan Bhaskar Khare (Dr)

v. Election Commission of India, 1957 SCR 1081, Mohinder Singh

Gill v. Chief Election Commr., (1978) 1 SCC 405, Lakshmi Charan

Sen v. A.K.M. Hassan Uzzaman, (1985) 4 SCC 689, Indrajit Barua v.

Election Commission of India, (1985) 4 SCC 722, Anugrah Narain

Singh v. State of U.P., (1996) 6 SCC 303, Election Commission of

India v. Ashok Kumar, (2000) 8 SCC 216, Kishansing Tomar v.

Municipal Corpn., Ahmedabad, (2006) 8 SCC 352, W.B. State

Election Commission v. Communist Party of India (Marxist),

(2018) 18 SCC 141, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam v. State of T.N.,

(2020) 6 SCC 548, Laxmibai v. Collector, (2020) 12 SCC 186. He

also relied on judgments which in other contexts, such as cooperative

societies for example, accepted what is laid down in Ponnuswamy’s

judgment even without any constitutional or statutory bar, stating that

8
the only method of challenging an election is after the election process

is over, by means of an election petition. For this purpose, he relied

upon Section 22 of the Goa Municipalities Act which, according to him,

contained grounds wide enough to set aside the entire election.

10. Shri Mukul Rohatgi, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of

the appellant in civil appeal arising out of SLP(C) Diary No. 6385/2021,

referred to the judgment in Lakshmi Charan Sen v. A.K.M. Hassan

Uzzaman (supra) and in particular the passage about how a court

ought not to interfere with an election at a stage in which the election

process is “imminent” i.e., about to start. He then relied upon Election

Commission of India v. Ashok Kumar (supra) for the proposition that

even if there were certain faults after an election process is underway,

these faults must be ignored as they can always be the subject matter

of an election petition after the elections are complete. For this

purpose, he also relied heavily upon Election Commission of India v.

Shivaji, (1988) 1 SCC 277 and read from Chandrachud, J.’s judgment

in W.B. State Election Commission v. Communist Party of India

(Marxist) (supra) speaking of a judicial hands-off until the election

process is over.

11. Shri P.S. Narasimha, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of

9
the SEC, relied upon the judgments in Kishansing Tomar v.

Municipal Corpn., Ahmedabad (supra) and Anugrah Narain Singh

v. State of U.P. (supra) and emphasized the fact that timely elections

had to be held for which the SEC alone was in charge. He pointed out

that a huge machinery had to be set up and was set up pursuant to the

election notification that has been issued, all of which would be set at

naught if the impugned judgment is not set aside. He further added

that the observations made by the impugned judgment on the State

Election Commission’s indolence and non-action were not fair to the

Commission and asked that they be deleted.

12. Shri Vinay Navare, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of

the appellant in civil appeal arising out of SLP(C) Diary No. 6385/2021,

also emphasized the non obstante clause contained in Article 243ZG.

He also went into and attacked the judgment’s findings on women’s

reservation not being correctly made and that the rotation principle was

not correctly observed. He strongly advocated that the de minimis non

curat lex principle be applied to these situations particularly when the

election process is already underway. So far as the judgment striking

down the impugned order on the ground that OBC reservation was

less than 27% as mandated by Section 9(2)(bb) of the Goa

10
Municipalities Act, he argued that the judgment itself made it clear that,

though not raised in the writ petitions, the Judges took it up suo motu

and set aside the order even on this ground.

13. Shri Atmaram Nadkarni, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf

of first Respondent in civil appeal arising out of SLP(C) No. 3937/2021,

was at pains to point out that both Shri Mehta and Shri Rohatgi did not

challenge the impugned judgment on merits. He was also at pains to

point out that in the facts of the present case, there was no delimitation

commission which is headed by a retired judge but the entire exercise

of delimitation and reservation is done by an executive officer of the

Government. He argued that this Court ought not to exercise its

jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution at all in view of the fact

that the SEC in the present case was not an independent body but was

acting through the Law Secretary, Government of Goa, which is what

led to the order dated 04.02.2021. He strongly relied upon two earlier

Bombay High Court judgments in which solemn statements had been

made before the High Court that the State Government would issue

reservation notifications at least 3 weeks before the notification which

lays down the schedule for elections. He further argued that the

lightning speed with which everything was done on one day and which

11
was correctly commented upon by the High Court judgment showed

complete non-application of mind insofar as reservation of

women/SCs/STs/OBCs and the principle of rotation was concerned.

He also added that there was malice in law so far as the SEC is

concerned, as has been found by the High Court. Contrary to

assurances made before earlier Division Benches, the State

Government first amended Section 10 of the Goa Municipalities Act

and thereafter published the impugned order reserving Municipal

Wards for various categories, and then announced the elections

without waiting for at least three weeks. The High Court was not told

that on 05.02.2021 itself the SEC had made up its mind to hold the

election on 20.03.2021. Had this fact been disclosed to the High

Court, it could have heard the writ petitions much before 22.2.2021. He

also stressed the fact that despite the fact that the State Government

offices begin at 9:30 a.m., a notification was pulled out at 9:00 a.m. on

22.02.2021 so as to forestall the High Court from commencing the

hearing of the writ petitions with a fait accompli, namely, that the

election process has now started. He also argued that even after our

order dated 04.03.2021, the Goa SEC issued a notification on

12
04.03.2021, not adhering to the original timelines fixed but extending

the time period for filing of nominations from 04.03.2021 till 06.03.2021

and thus rescheduled the elections. According to the learned Senior

Advocate, the bar contained in Article 243 ZG(a) and (b) do not apply

on the peculiar facts of this case. Further, the High Court judgment was

correct on merits so far as women’s reservation was concerned as

Article 243T mandates a reservation of at least one-third, using the

word “shall” and using the words “not less than”, making it clear that in

the case of a fraction, the fraction has to be rounded up to the figure

one. He also relied upon a plethora of judgments in order to buttress

his submissions.

14. Shri Vivek Tankha, learned Senior Advocate appearing for the first

Respondent in civil appeal arising out of SLP(C) No. 4121/2021,

emphasized that the SEC that is constituted under Article 243K is on

par with the Election Commission of India. For this, he emphasized, in

particular, the proviso in Article 243K(2) which makes it clear that the

State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office

except in like manner and on the like ground as a Judge of a High

Court, and the conditions of service of the State Election

Commissioner shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his

13
appointment. This provision, according to the learned Senior Advocate,

ensures that the SEC is an independent constitutional functionary

which is to oversee elections conducted at Panchayat and Municipal

levels. The whole problem in the present case has arisen only

because this mandate of the Constitution has been flouted by the

Government of Goa in that the Law Secretary has been given

additional charge and made the State Election Commissioner, leading

to the SEC not functioning as an independent body and, in fact, acting

so as to pre-empt the jurisdiction of the High Court in challenging a

notification issued by the Director under Section 10 of the Goa

Municipalities Act. He reiterated the facts of this case as pointed out

by Shri Nadkarni and relied, in addition, to Bendict Denis Kinny v.

Tulip Brian Miranda Ors., (2020) SCC Online 802 for the

proposition that the High Court’s doors are never closed under Article

226 of the Constitution of India in deserving matters, in particular

where the court’s process is sought to be overreached by a non-

functioning non-independent State Election Commission.

15. Shri Ninad Laud, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the

intervenor in SLP(C) No. 3937/2021, cited the judgment in Anugrah

Narain Singh v. State of U.P. (supra) and pointed out that under the

14
Goa Municipalities Act, just as under the
UP Act that was considered in

that case, orders of delimitation, reservation and allotment of seats do

not statutorily have the force of law, and can thus be challenged in a

writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. He

argued that this decision distinguishes Meghraj’s case (supra) and

would be applicable on the facts contained in the present case, as a

result of which it was within the jurisdiction of the High Court to strike

down the order of the Director reserving seats in wards dated

04.02.2021. He also made a reference to various provisions of the Goa

Municipalities Act which specifically provide that when fractions are to

be taken into account, they should be ignored. Such provision is

conspicuous by its absence in Sections 9 and 10 of the Goa

Municipalities Act, which is required to follow the constitutional

mandate that is contained in Article 243T of the Constitution of India.

16. Having heard learned counsel for all parties, it is important to

emphasize a few background facts before coming to the impugned

judgment in the present case. In Dnyaneshwar Narso Naik v. State

of Goa, WP No. 179/2020, a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court

at Goa, by its judgment dated 11.12.2020, (in the context of Zilla

Panchayat elections in Goa) recorded as follows:

15

“98. In this case, there is yet another disturbing feature.
Despite repeated letters and reminders from the SEC
commencing from 11.06.2019 to the State Government
requiring the State Government to complete the exercise of
delimitation, reservation, and rotation of reserved seats,
such exercise was completed and notified only on
20.02.2020, knowing fully well that the term of the earlier
members was to expire on 24.03.2020 and the SEC would
require a minimum 26 days to complete the election
process. As noted earlier, the learned counsel for the
Petitioners have pointed out that the purpose for this delay
and the issuance of forthcoming Notification by the SEC
was to preempt any challenges to the impugned Notification
dated 20.02.2020 before the Constitutional Court. The
learned counsel for the Petitioners pointed out that this is
invariably done so that once the election process sets in, the
Constitutional Courts are extremely reluctant to interfere
with the election process in deference to the provisions in
Article 243-O of the Constitution.

xxx xxx xxx

101. Thereafter, on account of the COVID-19 Pandemic
situation, the election could not be held on 22nd March 2020
as scheduled. On 14.10.2020, this Court ordered these
matters to be placed for final hearing in the week
commencing from 23.11.2020. The final hearing
commenced on 24.11.2020. During the final hearing,
Notifications were issued fixing the date of polling on
12.12.2020. Once again it was contended now that the
election process is so far advanced, this Court ought not to
grant any reliefs to the Petitioners. Thus, by delaying the
issuance of impugned Notifications, the State Government
has virtually succeeded in depriving the Petitioners of a
reasonable opportunity of seeking judicial review before this
Court. Again, there is no explanation whatsoever in the
affidavit filed on behalf of the State Government as to why
Notifications regarding reservation were not issued earlier

16
even though the SEC was constantly reminding the State
Government for issuance of the same.

102. The learned Advocate General has now, however,
made a statement that hereafter the exercise of notifying
reservations will be made at least three weeks before any
Notification is issued under Rule 10(1) of the said Rules to
commence the election process. According to us, this period
of hardly three weeks is too short and this exercise of
notifying the reserved constituencies must be made at least
two months before the date of issuance of Notification under
Rule 10(1) of the said Rules. We, therefore, direct the State
Government to issue Notification reserving and/or rotating
reserved seats at least two months before the date of
issuance of Notification under Rule 10(1) by which the
election process to the Panchayats commences.”

17. Likewise, a few days later, a Division Bench of the High Court, by an

order dated 21.12.2020, in Sujay S. Lotlikar v. State of Goa, LD-VC-

CW-359-2020, also specifically recorded:

“5. Today, the learned Advocate General for the State of
Goa makes a statement that the notifications for delimitation
and reservation will be issued by the appropriate authorities
whom he represents, at least three weeks prior to the date
of the notification of the schedule for municipal election.”

18. This order is important in the facts of the present case as it dealt

directly with Municipal elections in some of the very wards that were

before the High Court in the impugned judgment.

19. Contrary to the Advocate General’s statement made before two

Division Benches of the High Court, the State Government amended

Section 10 of the Goa Municipalities Act by adding a proviso on

17
04.02.2021, which then provided that such orders shall be issued at

least 7 days before the date of notification of the General Elections.

Armed with this amendment, the Law Secretary as State Election

Commissioner, by a communication dated 05.02.2021 to the Director,

Urban Development, requested the aforesaid Director to issue an order

under Section 10 of the Goa Municipalities Act “at an early date”

insofar as the 11 Municipal Councils in this case are concerned, as

elections are proposed to be held on by 20.03.2021. With retrospective

effect and with lightning speed, the Director complied with this request

on a day previous to this date, and provided for reservations vide order

dated 04.02.2021 in all 11 Municipal Councils for

women/SCs/STs/OBCs. To make matters worse, the SEC did not

disclose to the Court that vide a note dated 05.02.2021, elections were

to be held on 20.03.2021. The High Court was thus lulled into a false

sense of security when writ petitions that were filed between 9 th and

12th February, 2021, challenging the 04.02.2021 order, were taken up

on 15.02.2021 and were then set down for final hearing on 22.02.2021.

To make matters worse, when the Division Bench of the High Court

commenced hearing these writ petitions at 9.00 a.m. on 22.02.2021, it

18
was provided with a notification announcing the schedule of elections

at 9:00 a.m. on 22.02.2021. This is despite the fact that the State

Government’s offices open only at 9:30 a.m. It is in the background of

these disturbing facts that the writ petitions were then taken up and

decided by the Division Bench of the High Court on 01.03.2021.

20. Both Judges delivered judgments in this case. The judgment of

Bharati Dangre, J. held as follows:

“5. Nine Writ Petitions came to be instituted before this
Court, pursuant to the order passed on 04/02/2021 by the
respondent no.2 posing a challenge to the determination of
the reservation of seats in different Wards of Municipal
Councils for the purpose ensuing Municipal elections. The
said order reserved the seats for different categories being
Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward
Classes and women and purported it to be complaint with
the provisions contained in the Goa Municipalities Act, 1968.

The aforesaid Writ Petitions were filed before this Court
between 09/02/2021 to 12/02/2021 and came to be listed
before the Division Bench on 15/02/2021, when notice came
to be issued for final disposal, making it returnable on
22/02/2021. The learned counsel for the Petitioners
submitted that this was on the understanding that up to
22nd February 2021, the Respondents will not declare the
election schedule. However, on 22nd February 2021 itself
when the matters were to be taken up for final disposal, the
State Election Commission (SEC) declared the election
schedule. On the returnable date we heard the respective
Counsel for the petitioners and the learned Advocate
General. Mr. D. Pangam, learned Advocate General also
submitted that the issuance of such election schedule will
not be urged as a ground to deny any reliefs to the
Petitioners if such reliefs are indeed found to be due. He,

19
however, clarified that he would be submitting that this Court
ought not to grant any reliefs to the Petitioners since, even
on the date of the institution of the petitions, the elections to
the Municipal Councils were quite imminent.

xxx xxx xxx

13. Mr. Joshi, learned counsel appearing for the SEC
admitted that there has been constitutional infraction on the
part of the Director, in failing to reserve not less than one-
third of the total number of seats in Mormugao and Mapusa
Municipal Councils, in favour of women. On questioned
whether the Commission has pointed out the flaw, his
answer is in the negative. He submits that the issue of
reservation is within the purview of the Directors and
therefore, notwithstanding the constitutional or statutory
infraction, the SEC is helpless and has no choice but to
proceed with the elections based on the impugned order
dated 4th February 2021 and since it is bestowed with a
duty to conduct timely elections.

xxx xxx xxx

16. Pertinent to note that the noting itself provide solution,
by enlisting the mechanism to be adopted which reflect, that
since reservation for women is done by rotation and after
delimitation done in 2015, rotation end up in three terms,
commencing from 2015 and going to end in 2026. After
charting the reservation which is already provided for
women category in 2015 and 2021, the solution offered is
the remaining Wards which are not reserved for women in
the earlier two elections, may be reserved in 2026. Implicitly,
the stand taken is that in order to complete the fraction, the
seat would be rounded off in the three terms by rotation, in
order to avoid excessive reservation to women and
therefore the aforesaid solution.

We are afraid whether this would serve the intention of
clause 3 of
Article 243T as well as the mandate of the State

20
Legislation, which, effectively read would mean that on
constitution of a Municipal Council for every term, not less
than 1/3rd seats shall be reserved for women. The
expression used in the Constitution as well as in the
Municipalities Act, being “not less than” or “no less than”,
make it clear that even a fraction cannot be ignored
because by ignoring the same, the reservation would be
minimized than 1/3rd and if it is done so, it would amount to
infraction of the constitutional mandate.

xxx xxx xxx

18. Keeping in mind the aforesaid philosophy in introducing
reservation for women by the Constitution and subsequently
in the State Legislation, we are of the firm opinion that the
course adopted by the respondent no.2 violate the mandate
of law. The solution offered by the respondent no.2 in taking
forward the reservation and to be adjusted within the three
terms, is also, according to us defeat the very purpose as
the mandate contained in the first proviso appended to sub-
section 1 of Section 9 which is to be followed in every
Council which means, the Municipal Council constituted or
deemed to be constituted under the Act for a Municipal area
and as a body corporate with a prescribed tenure. The
fraction even if it is created in calculating 1/3rd reservation
cannot be permitted to be rounded off towards the earlier
denomination and the normal principle for rounding off,
which is based on logic and common sense; “if part is one
half or more, its value shall be increased to one and if less
than one half the value shall be ignored”, cannot be made
applicable here.

In Ashok Maniklal Harkut Vs Collector, Amravati and
others [1988 Mh.L.J.378], the Full Bench of this Court, in
the context of provisions of Section 55(1) and 55(2) of the
Maharashtra Municipalities Act held that a valid no-
confidence motion must be passed by not less than two-
thirds of the total number of councilors was mandatory. The
Full Bench held that the total number of votes must not be

21
less than two-third though they may be more. The fraction
cannot be ignored since if the fraction is ignored then the
majority will be two-third of the councilors. Thus, where the
total number of elected councilors at the time when the
motion was moved 19, support of only 13 councilors, being
less than two-third, was not sufficient to carry such a no-
confidence motion.

The Hon’ble Apex Court has reiterated the view taken by
Full Bench of this Court and in the case of Ganesh Sukdev
Gurule v/s. Tahsildar Sinnar Ors (2019) 3 SCC 211.
The issue for deliberation before the Apex Court involved
Section 35 of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act,
1959, which is a provision for no confidence motion and
sub-
section 3 of the said Section indicating the requirement
of majority of not less than two third of total number of
members who are for the time being entitled to sit and vote.
Construing the phrase “not less than”, Their Lordships of the
Apex Court, dealing with the arguments that when the
fraction arrived is 5.33, it should be rounded to 5 has held
as under:

’12. The next submission pressed by the respondent is
that for applying the principle of rounding off 5.33 votes
have to be rounded as to five. Thus, five votes are
sufficient to accept majority for the purpose of passing
no-confidence motion. Whether 5.33 votes can be
rounded up into 5 votes or requirement is at least six
votes is the real issue. When there are clear words in
the statute i.e. “not less two-third of the total number of
members” applying the principle of rounding off, 5.33
votes cannot be treated as 5. Vote of a person cannot
be expressed in fraction. When computation of a
majority comes with fraction of a vote that fraction has to
be treated as one vote, because votes cannot be
expressed in fraction. The principle that figure less than .
5 is to be ignored and figure more than .5 shall be
treated as one, is not applicable in the statutory scheme

22
as delineated by
Section 35. Provision of Section 35(1)
which provides for requirement for moving motion of no-
confidence by not less than one-third of the total number
of the members who are for the time being entitled to sit
and vote at any meeting of the Panchayat, is the same
expression as used in sub-section(3). Obviously,
requirement of not less than one-third number for
moving motion has to be computed from total number of
the members who are entitled to sit and vote. Thus, the
same expression having been used in sub-section (3) of
Section 35, both the expressions have to be given the
same meaning. Thus, one-third of total number of
members who are entitled to sit and vote have to be
determined on the strength of members entitled to vote
at a particular time. The same meaning has also to be
applied while computing two-third majority.’

In light of the aforesaid authoritative pronouncements, we
find that the approach adopted by the respondent no.2
would stare in face of the constitutional mandate, reserving
1/3rd seats for women and to this extent the impugned order
dated 04.02.2021 is liable to be quashed. By the same
reasoning, the impugned order which reserve 8 seats in
Margao Municipal Council where the total number of seats
to be filled in are 25, must also be quashed and set aside.

19. xxx xxx xxx

The Director has acted in breach of the Constitution as well
as the statutory provision and the impugned order dated
04.02.2021 is therefore required to be quashed and set
aside as not adhering to the mandate of law.

xxx xxx xxx

23. When our attention is invited to the action of the Director
and on the conduct of the Election Commission as a mute
spectator, which in fact was expected to act and live upto its
role conferred by the constitution, ensuring free and fair

23
elections, we are not expected to be oblivious to the
situations which have been drawn to us. We do not
appreciate the helplessness expressed by the State Election
Commission, which is supposed to be an authority
independent of the Government. If the illegality has been
noticed by the State Election Commission, we expect it to
act with promptitude and issue appropriate directions to the
Director to rectify the said action by ensuring that it follows
the mandate of the constitution rather than to rush and issue
the election schedule. Its power of superintendence over the
“conduct of elections” is wide enough, which include the
power to take all steps necessary for conduct of free and fair
election. The silence on part of the constitutional functionary,
according to us, is highly detrimental to the democratic
concept of this country. We say nothing more.

xxx xxx xxx

26. We would have appreciated the submission advanced
by the learned Advocate General that mere absence of
policy would not lead to arbitrariness, albeit, we have before
us instances as reflected in the Noting from where we have
discerned that absence of policy has resulted into non
discernable and non justifiable rotation of seats in different
wards of respective Municipal Councils. The prescribed
reservation of women as per the mandate is one such
instance. Similar is the case in respect of the OBC
reservations, though none of the petitioners before us raised
the said ground before us, however, since we have perused
the Noting, we are enlisting it as one of the aspect
demonstrating non application of mind and attitude towards
flouting the mandate of the State legislation. The Goa
Municipalities Act, prescribes reservation for other backward
classes based on concentration of the population of the said
class in a particular ward. By the (amendment) Act, 2016
clause (bb) of sub section 2 of Section 9 has prescribed
27% number of seats to be filled in the election of Municipal
Council to the person belonging to other back ward classes

24
and such seats are to be allotted by reservations to different
wards in the Council. The Noting produced before us reflect
that there was utter failure to adhere to the said the
proportion and other Municipal Councils where 27% of seats
are reserved for other backward classes, the proportion of
reservation in other Municipal Council stood to the
percentage of 20% being in Valpoi, Pernem and Sanguem.
In the remaining Municipal Councils, the percentage of
reserved seats for OBC vary from 21% to 25%.

Another instance of arbitrariness or non-application of mind
is the reservation in ward no. 1 in Sanguem Municipal
Council; the ward is reserved for Scheduled Tribe category
whereas the percentage of population in the Ward of ST is
0.23% and a specific averment is made in the petition,
which is not denied is there is only one voter belonging to
the said category. If the respondent no. 2 would have paid
attention to the wording applied in
Section 10 “having regard
to the concentration of the population” and given the said
term significance as population of SC, ST and OBC, the
said error was avoidable. By ignoring the concentration of
the population, the situation that has arisen wherein ward
no. 10 which has ST population of 206 as against total
population of 681, by following cycle of rotation, since in the
year 2010, ward no. 4 which had maximum ST population
and it was reserved in the next election, according to us, the
next highest population ward should have been reserved in
the year 2013. The challenge to the reservation of the said
provided in the year 2021 as arbitrary, justify the said
accusation.

xxx xxx xxx

31. Now we turn to the relief which the petitioners are
entitled to. Once we have recorded that our interference in
the process of election has necessitated on account of the
flaws which defeat the constitutional mandate of reservation
and rotation, our endeavor is to ensure that our decision to
intervene do not cause any interruption or obstruction or in

25
any way to protract the election procedure but on the
contrary it subserve the progress of election and facilitates
its completion. Amongst the 11 Municipal Councils whose
process of reservation and rotation has been alleged to be
flawed one, their term has already expired and it is being
informed that its administration has been taken over by the
body of Administrators. By the Notification published on
14/01/2021, the SEC has already postponed the elections
for a period of three months i.e. till April 2021 or the election
date which may be determined by the Commission. By
passing the impugned order on 04/02/2021 the reservation
has been determined by the respondent No.2 and on
22/02/2021 the election programme has been notified by the
respondent No.3. On perusal of the said programme, it is
apparent that it will consume a period of 22 days from the
last date of filing of nomination till the declaration of result
on 22/03/2021. Since the Municipal Councils are already
under the management of the administrator and the time
scheduled for completion of election has been extended by
the election Commission till 14/04/2021, and since from the
date of pronouncement of our judgment still there is a period
of 45 days available, in our opinion on rectification of errors
which amount to infringement the constitutional mandate not
only qua the reservation to women but also other infractions
which we have noticed, a fresh programme shall be notified.
If the authorities move with lightning speed, which they are
expected to, since in the exigency of the situation which
prompted the SEC to be agile in issuing the Notification
declaring the elections when the Writ Petitions were pending
before the Court, challenging the impugned Notification,
expecting the same promptitude by the election Commission
and on behalf of the State Government to rectify its
procedure, and ensure free and fair election which is a
hallmark of democracy, we direct the respondent No.2 to
redetermine the reservation of seats in the Wards of the
Municipal Council in the light of the observations made by
us in the judgment. This exercise shall be undertaken within
a period of 10 days from today, which will leave sufficient

26
time for the SEC to notify the election programme and
complete the election process before 15/04/2021, by
adhering to all the necessary stages as prescribed under
the Goa Municipalities Election Rules, 1969.”

21. Likewise, M.S.Sonak, J. delivered a concurring judgment holding:

“48. Applying the principles laid down by the Full Bench and
the Hon’ble Supreme Court to the position of reservation in
Mormugao Municipal Council, it will have to be held that the
reservation of only eight seats out of a total number of 25
seats in favour of women is a reservation which is less than
one-third the total number of seats to be filled by direct
election to the Mormugao Municipal Council. Similarly, the
reservation of only six seats from out of a total number of 20
seats to be filled by direct election to the Mapusa Municipal
Council amounts to a reservation less than one-third of the
total number of seats to be filled by direct election. The
Director has acted in breach of both constitutional as well as
statutory provisions in failing to provide reservation of not
less than one-third of the total number of seats, in favour of
women, and to that extent the impugned order dated 4th
February 2021 is required to be quashed and set aside.

49. Mr. Joshi, learned counsel appearing for the SEC
admitted that there has been constitutional infraction on the
part of the Director, in failing to reserve not less than one-
third of the total number of seats in Mormugao and Mapusa
Municipal Councils, in favour of women. He, however, on
instructions stated that the SEC is not concerned with the
issue of reservation and therefore, notwithstanding the
constitutional or statutory infraction, the SEC is quite
helpless and will have no choice but to proceed with the
elections based on the impugned order dated 4th February
2021 howsoever defective such order may be.

50. At least we did not hear any arguments from the learned
Advocate General that there was no constitutional or
statutory infraction on the part of the Director in reserving

27
less than one-third of the total number of seats in favour of
women.

xxx xxx xxx

51. The “understanding” of the Director of the constitutional
provisions in
Article 243-T or statutory provisions in Section
9 of the said Act cannot be the basis for sustaining the
impugned order. The understanding of the Director is far
from reasonable contrary to what was contended by the
learned Advocate General. Neither the Constitution nor the
said Act gives the Director three election terms i.e. 15 years
to comply with the constitutional and statutory mandate of
reserving not less than one- third of the total number of
seats to be filled by direct election in “every municipality”.
Both constitutional provisions as also statutory provisions
make it abundantly clear that for each term the Municipality
or Municipal Council, must have at least one -third women
councilors, for a Municipality or Council to be regarded as a
validly constituted Municipality or Council.

52. This understanding or theory of complying with the
constitutional or statutory mandate in three installments
spread over 15 years is some unique device adopted by the
Director in a futile attempt to justify the gross constitutional
and statutory infraction. Such a justification finds no basis
either in the Constitution or the said Act. Such a justification
is neither legal nor reasonable. Based on such a
justification, there is no question of sustaining the order
dated 4th February 2021.

xxx xxx xxx

54. From the aforesaid, it is apparent that the Director
carries the impression that both the Constitution as well as
the said Act provide that the reservation in favour of women
must not exceed one-third the total number of seats, when
in fact, both the Constitution as well as the said Act provide
exactly opposite. The Director seems to hold the impression

28
that reserving seven seats out of a total of 20 seats in
Mapusa Municipal Council will “exceed and violate the
mandate of 1/3rd reservation which is 20 seats”. Such
understanding or impression of the Director flies in the face
of both Constitutional as well as statutory mandate that not
less than one-third of seats must be reserved in favour of
the women. This means that there can be no violation of
both Constitutional as well as statutory mandate if
reservation exceeds one-third but there will be a violation of
both Constitutional as well as statutory mandate if the
reservation is less than one-third.

55. Since the impugned order dated 4th February 2021 is
based upon such a gross misunderstanding of the
provisions of the Constitution and the said Act, the same,
will have to be quashed and set aside. Accordingly, the first
contention of the learned Advocate General that the
understanding of the Director being reasonable in support of
the impugned order dated 4th February 2021 will have to be
rejected. No understanding which results in doing what the
Constitution specifically prohibits can be held as reasonable
understanding. Any order based upon such understanding is
therefore ultimately vulnerable and will have to be quashed
and set aside.

xxx xxx xxx

59. In the aforesaid context, we do not appreciate the
helplessness expressed by the SEC, which is supposed to
be an authority independent of the Government of Goa. The
fortuitous circumstance that the SEC is also the Law
Secretary, Government of Goa is not sufficient circumstance
to express helplessness in the wake of an unconstitutional
and ultra vires order by the Director of Municipal
Administration/Urban Development. According to us, it was
the duty of the SEC to require the Director to immediately
rectify the impugned order and to provide for reservation of
less than one-third of the seats in favour of women, rather
than to rush and issue election schedule.

29

xxx xxx xxx

63. The contention that the writ Court ought not to interfere
with when the elections are imminent cannot be sole ground
to defend an indefensible order or a patent infraction of the
constitutional or statutory mandate. In this case, the learned
Advocate General, apart from contending that
“understanding” of the Director was not unreasonable, did
not urge even a single contention in defence of the
Director’s failure to comply with the constitutional mandate
in
Article 243-T(3) or Section 9(1) of the said Act. Normally,
at least plausible defence is put forth and the contention is
that the detailed adjudication may be postponed until the
conclusion of the election process. In this case, however,
the only contention was that this Court should adopt hands-
off doctrine because the elections were imminent. The
“hands-off doctrine” has been evolved not to legalize or
immunize patently unconstitutional orders or to enable the
parties to create a situation fait accompli.

xxx xxx xxx

77. The aforesaid means that there is a total disconnect
between the noting prepared and relied upon by the Director
and his affidavit dated 23rd February 2021. The noting
refers to the concentration of ST population whereas the
affidavit in terms states that there is no mandate to reserve
seats for SC or ST merely because the population of SC or
ST in those particular wards is high. The Director has gone
to the extent of stating that the Petitioners’ contention draws
no support either from the Constitution or the said Act. In the
affidavit, there is no explanation why the rotation mandate
has been openly flouted.

78. Based on the disconnect between the affidavit filed by
the Director and his Noting, the impugned order in so far as
it reserves the ward Nos.4 and 7 in favour of ST, ignoring
the mandate of rotation of reserved seats, will have to be set
aside. Besides, the impugned notification, in so far as it

30
concerns Margao Municipal Council will also have to be set
aside on account of the constitutional and statutory
infraction of reserving less than one-third seats in favour of
women.

79. The Director after having admitted that there was no
policy based on which the reservation has been made or
rotation policy implemented, appears to have regarded the
absence of such policy as a licence to make reservations
based on his whims and caprices. Different yardsticks have
been applied in respect of different Municipal Councils.
There is no uniform policy even for the implementation of
the rotation mandate in the same councils. The entire
exercise of making reservations to no less than 11 councils
was completed by the Director in a single day i.e. 4th
February 2021 and even the impugned order was issued on
the same date. At least prima facie, even the amended
provisions of
section 9(2)(bb) of the said Act in relation to
27% reservations for OBCs appear to have been completely
overlooked. The Noting that is a precursor for the issuance
of the impugned order dated 4th February 2021 and was
prepared on 4th February 2021 itself in a tearing hurry and
soon thereafter Law Secretary who is holding the post of
SEC issued the election schedule on 22nd February 2021
even though, these petitions had already been instituted and
were posted for final disposal on 22nd February 2021.
Based upon these artificially created events, the entire
defence was to press forth the hands-off doctrine and
overlook the gross illegalities and the constitutional and
statutory infraction by the Director.

80. For all the above reasons I concur and join my Sister,
Hon’ble Smt. Justice Bharati Dangre in allowing all the writ
petitions except Writ Petition No. 515 of 2021 and in issuing
the operational directions.”

22. This reasoning then led to the final conclusion which, as has been

31
extracted above, struck down the order dated 04.02.2021 and directed

the Director, Urban Development to issue a fresh order within 10 days

from the date of the judgment giving due weightage to the observations

contained in the judgments. Further, the SEC was then directed to

notify the election programme afresh so that the election process

culminates on or before 15.04.2021.

23. Part IXA of the Constitution titled “The Municipalities” was inserted by

the Constitution (Seventy-Fourth) Amendment Act, 1992 with effect

from 1st June, 1993. Article 243P defines “Municipal Area” and

“Municipality” as follows:

243P. Definitions.

xxx xxx xxx

(d) “Municipal area” means the territorial area of a
Municipality as is notified by the Governor;

(e) “Municipality” means an institution of self-government
constituted under
article 243Q;

xxx xxx xxx

24. Municipalities are then divided into three categories under Article

243Q. The first is the Nagar Panchayat for a transitional area i.e., an

area in transition from a rural to an urban area; the second is the

Municipal Council for a “smaller urban area” and third, a Municipal

32
Corporation for a “larger urban area” as follows:

243Q. Constitution of Municipalities.

(1) There shall be constituted in every State, –

(a) a Nagar Panchayat (by whatever name called) for a
transitional area, that is to say, an area in transition from a
rural area to an urban area;

(b) a Municipal Council for a smaller urban area; and

(c) a Municipal Corporation for a larger urban area,

in accordance with the provisions of this Part:

Provided that a Municipality under this clause may not be
constituted in such urban area or part thereof as the
Governor may, having regard to the size of the area and the
municipal services being provided or proposed to be
provided by an industrial establishment in that area and
such other factors as he may deem fit, by public notification,
specify to be an industrial township.

(2) In this article, “a transitional area”, “a smaller urban area”
or “a larger urban area” means such area as the Governor
may, having regard to the population of the area, the density
of the population therein, the revenue generated for local
administration, the percentage of employment in non-
agricultural activities, the economic importance or such
other factors as he may deem fit, specify by public
notification for the purposes of this Part.

25. Article 243T is important and provides for reservation of seats in

Municipalities as follows:

243T. Reservation of seats.

33

(1) Seats shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and
the Scheduled Tribes in every Municipality and the number
of seats so reserved shall bear, as nearly as may be, the
same proportion to the total number of seats to be filled by
direct election in that Municipality as the population of the
Scheduled Castes in the Municipal area or of the Scheduled
Tribes in the Municipal area bears to the total population of
that area and such seats may be allotted by rotation to
different constituencies in a Municipality.

(2) Not less than one-third of the total number of seats
reserved under clause (1) shall be reserved for women
belonging to the Scheduled Castes or, as the case may be,
the Scheduled Tribes.

(3) Not less than one-third (including the number of seats
reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and
the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be
filled by direct election in every Municipality shall be
reserved for women and such seats may be allotted by
rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality.

(4) The offices of Chairpersons in the Municipalities shall be
reserved for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes
and women in such manner as the Legislature of a State
may, by law, provide.

(5) The reservation of seats under clauses (1) and (2) and
the reservation of offices of Chairpersons (other than the
reservation for women) under clause (4) shall cease to have
effect on the expiration of the period specified in
article 334.

(6) Nothing in this Part shall prevent the Legislature of a
State from making any provision for reservation of seats in
any Municipality or offices of Chairpersons in the
Municipalities in favour of backward class of citizens.

26. Under Article 243U(1), every Municipality, unless earlier dissolved

34
under any law for the time being in force, shall continue for five years

from the date appointed for its first meeting and no longer. Importantly,

Article 243U(3) provides:

243U. Duration of Municipalities, etc.

xxx xxx xxx

(3) An election to constitute a Municipality shall be
completed, –

(a) before the expiry of its duration specified in clause (1);

(b) before the expiration of a period of six months from the
date of its dissolution:

Provided that where the remainder of the period for which
the dissolved Municipality would have continued is less than
six months, it shall not be necessary to hold any election
under this clause for constituting the Municipality for such
period.

27. Article 243ZA provides for elections to Municipalities as follows:

243ZA. Elections to the Municipalities.

(1) The superintendence, direction and control of the
preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all
elections to the Municipalities shall be vested in the State
Election Commission referred to in
article 243K.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the
Legislature of a State may, by law, make provision with
respect to all matters relating to, or in connection with,
elections to the Municipalities.

28. Article 243K of the Constitution provides as follows:

35

243K. Elections to the Panchayats.

(1) The superintendence, direction and control of the
preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all
elections to the Panchayats shall be vested in a State
Election Commission consisting of a State Election
Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.

(2) Subject to the provisions of any law made by the
Legislature of a State, the conditions of service and tenure
of office of the State Election Commissioner shall be such
as the Governor may by rule determine:

Provided that the State Election Commissioner shall not be
removed from his office except in like manner and on the
like grounds as a Judge of a High Court and the conditions
of service of the State Election Commissioner shall not be
varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.

(3) The Governor of a State shall, when so requested by the
State Election Commission, make available to the State
Election Commission such staff as may be necessary for the
discharge of the functions conferred on the State Election
Commission by clause (1).

(4) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the
Legislature of a State may, by law, make provision with
respect to all matters relating to, or in connection with,
elections to the Panchayats.

29. It will be noticed that Article 243ZA(1) corresponds to Article 324

contained in Part XV dealing with elections to Parliament and the

legislative bodies of the States. Likewise, 243ZA(2) corresponds to

Article 328 contained in the same chapter.

30. Article 243ZG is important and states:

36

243ZG. Bar to interference by courts in electoral
matters.

Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, —

(a) the validity of any law relating to the delimitation of
constituencies or the allotment of seats to such
constituencies, made or purporting to be made under
article
243ZA shall not be called in question in any court;

(b) no election to any Municipality shall be called in question
except by an election petition presented to such authority
and in such manner as is provided for by or under any law
made by the Legislature of a State.]

This Article corresponds to Article 329 of the Constitution contained in

Part XV.

31. The relevant provisions of the Goa Municipalities Act are contained in

Sections 8 to 10A thereof:

8. Establishment and incorporation of Councils.

For every municipal area there shall be a Municipal Council.
Every such Council shall be a body corporate by the name
of “The … Municipal Council” and shall have perpetual
succession and a common seal, and shall have power to
acquire, hold and dispose of property, and to enter into
contracts and may by the said name sue, or be sued,
through its Chief Officer.

9. Composition of Councils.

(1) Save as otherwise provided by this Act, every Council
shall consist of Councillors elected at ward elections;

Provided that—

37
(1) in every Council, no less than (1/3) seats shall be
reserved for women;

(2) in every Council, seat shall also be reserved for
Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other
Backward Class and for woman belonging to Scheculed
Caste, as the case may be, the the Scheduled Tribes
and Other Backward Class as provided in subsection (2)

(2) The Director shall from time to time by an order
published in the Official Gazette fix for each municipal area

(a) the number of elected Councillors in accordance with
the following table:

Class of Number of elected
Municipal area Councillors

i) ‘A’ Class The minimum number of elected
Councillors shall be 20, and for every
2500 of the voters in the municipal
area or part thereof above 50,000
there shall be one additional elected
Councillor, so, however, that the total
number of elected Councillors shall
not exceed 25;

(ii) ‘B’ Class The minimum number of elected
Councillor shall be 12, and for every
2500 of the voters in the municipal
area or part thereof above 10,000
there shall be one additional elected
Councillor, so, however, that the total
number of elected Councillors shall
not exceed 20;

(iii) ‘C’ Class The number of elected Councillors
shall be 10.

38

(b) the number of seats, if any, to be reserved for the
Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes so that such
number shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same
proportion to the number of elected Councillors as the
population of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes
in the municipal area bears to the total population of that
area and not less than one-third of such seats shall be
reserved for women and such seats shall be allotted by
rotation to different wards in the Council.

(bb) the number of seats, if any, to be reserved for
persons belonging to the category of Other Backward
Classes so that such number shall be twenty seven
percent of the number of seats to be filled in through
election in the Council and such seats shall be allotted
by rotation to different wards in the Council.

(c) the number of seats for the office of Chairperson in
the Council for Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes
and women so that such number will bear as nearly as
may be, the same proportion to the number of elected
Councillors as the population of the scheduled Castes,
Scheduled Tribes in the municipal area bears to the total
population of that area and such seats shall be allotted
by rotation to different constituencies in a Council.

(3) The reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes made by an order under sub-section (2)
shall cease to have effect when the reservation of seats for
those Castes and Tribes in the House of the People ceases
to have effect under the Constitution of India:

Provided that nothing in this sub-section shall render any
person elected to any such reserved seat ineligible to
continue as a Councillor during the term of office for which
he was duly elected by reason only of the fact that the
reservation of seats has so ceased to have effect.

39

(4) Every order under sub-section (2) shall take effect for the
purposes of the next general election of the Council
immediately following after the date of the order.

xxx xxx xxx

10. Division of municipal area into wards and
reservation of wards for women, Scheduled Castes,
Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Class.

(1) The Director shall from time to time by order published in
the Official Gazette, fix for each municipal area the number
and the extent of the wards into which such area shall be
divided. The Director shall specify in the order the ward in
which a seat is reserved for women but in so doing he shall
ensure that such a seat its reserved from time to time by
rotation in different wards of the municipal area. He shall by
a like order specify the wards in which seats are reserved
for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes or the Other
Backward Class, including the seats for offices of
Chairperson having regard to the concentration of
population of those Castes, or Tribes, or as the case may
be, of those class, in any particular wards.

(2) Each of the wards shall elect only one Councillor.

(3) Every order issued under sub-section (1) shall take
effect for the purpose of the next general election
immediately following the date of such order.

(4) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prevent
women or persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes,
Scheduled Tribes or Other Backward Class for whom seats
are reserved in any Council, from standing for election and
being elected to any of the seats which are not reserved.

10A. Election of Councils.

The superintendence, direction and control of the
preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all

40
elections to the Council shall be vested in the State Election
Commission constituted under section 237 of the Goa
Panchayat Raj Act, 1994(Act 14 of 1994).

Bar contained in Articles 243ZG(b) / 329(b)

32. The locus classicus on the subject is by an early judgment of this

court which has been followed on innumerable occasions. N.P.

Ponnuswami v. Returning Officer, Namakkal Constituency (supra),

dealt with a petition that was filed under Article 226 before the Madras

High Court praying for a writ of certiorari in the following

circumstances:

“The appellant was one of the persons who had filed
nomination papers for election to the Madras Legislative
Assembly from the Namakkal Constituency in Salem district.

On 28th November, 1951, the Returning Officer for that
constituency took up for scrutiny the nomination papers filed
by the various candidates and on the same day he rejected
the appellant’s nomination paper on certain grounds which
need not be set out as they are not material to the point
raised in this appeal. The appellant thereupon moved the
High Court under
Article 226 of the Constitution praying for a
writ of certiorari to quash the order of the Returning Officer
rejecting his nomination paper and to direct the Returning
Officer to include his name in the list of valid nominations to
be published. The High Court dismissed the appellant’s
application on the ground that it had no jurisdiction to
interfere with the order of the Returning Officer by reason of
the provisions of
Article 329(b) of the Constitution. The
appellant’s contention in this appeal is that the view
expressed by the High Court is not correct, that the

41
jurisdiction of the High Court is not affected by
Article 329(b)
of the Constitution and that he was entitled to a writ of
certiorari in the circumstances of the case.” (at page 221)

33. This Court then summarized Part XV of the Constitution dealing with

elections as follows:

“In construing this Article, reference was made by both
parties in the course of their arguments to the other Articles
in the same Part, namely, Articles 324, 325, 326, 327 and

328. Article 324 provides for the constitution and
appointment of an Election Commissioner to superintend,
direct and control elections to the legislatures;
Article 325
prohibits discrimination against electors on the ground of
religion, race, caste or sex;
Article 326 provides for adult
suffrage;
Article 327 empowers Parliament to pass laws
making provision with respect to all matters relating to, or in
connection with, elections to the legislatures, subject to the
provisions of the Constitution; and
Article 328 is a
complementary article giving power to the State Legislature
to make provision with respect to all matters relating to, or in
connection with, elections to the State Legislature. A notable
difference in the language used in Articles 327 and 328 on
the one hand, and
Article 329 on the other, is that while the
first two articles begin with the words “subject to the
provisions of this Constitution”, the last article begins with
the words “notwithstanding anything in this Constitution”. It
was conceded at the bar that the effect of this difference in
language is that whereas any law made by Parliament
under
Article 327, or by the State Legislatures under Article
328, cannot exclude the jurisdiction of the High Court under
Article 226 of the Constitution, that jurisdiction is excluded in
regard to matters provided for in
Article 329.”

(at pages 224,225)

34. This court held that “election” has to be understood in the wider

42
sense as follows:

“The discussion in this passage makes it clear that the word
“election” can be and has been appropriately used with
reference to the entire process which consists of several
stages and embraces many steps, some of which may have
an important bearing on the result of the process.”

(at page 228)

35. Dealing with the specific contention of the bar contained in Article

329(b) shutting out proceedings under Article 226, the Court then held:

“The question now arises whether the law of elections in this
country contemplates that there should be two attacks on
matters connected with election proceedings, one while they
are going on by invoking the extraordinary jurisdiction of the
High Court under
Article 226 of the Constitution (the
ordinary jurisdiction of the courts having been expressly
excluded), and another after they have been completed by
means of an election petition. In my opinion, to affirm such a
position would be contrary to the scheme of Part XV of the
Constitution and the
Representation of the People Act,
which, as I shall point out later, seems to be that any matter
which has the effect of vitiating an election should be
brought up only at the appropriate stage in an appropriate
manner before a Special Tribunal and should not be brought
up at an intermediate stage before any court. It seems to me
that under the election law, the only significance which the
rejection of a nomination paper has consists in the fact that
it can be used as a ground to call the election in question.

Article 329(b) was apparently enacted to prescribe the
manner in which and the stage at which this ground, and
other grounds which may be raised under the law to call the
election in question, could be urged. I think it follows by
necessary implication from the language of this provision
that those grounds cannot be urged in any other manner, at

43
any other stage and before any other court. If the grounds
on which an election can be called in question could be
raised at an earlier stage and errors, if any, are rectified,
there will be no meaning in enacting a provision like
Article
329(b) and in setting up a Special Tribunal. Any other
meaning ascribed to the words used in the article would
lead to anomalies, which the Constitution could not have
contemplated, one of them being that conflicting views may
be expressed by the High court at the pre-polling stage and
by the election tribunal, which is to be an independent body,
at the stage when the matter is brought up before it.

I think that a brief examination of the scheme of Part XV of
the Constitution and the
Representation of the People Act,
1951, will show that the construction I have suggested is the
correct one. Broadly speaking, before an election machinery
can be brought into operation, there are three requisites
which require to be attended to, namely, (1) there should be
a set of laws and rules making provisions with respect to all
matters relating to, or in connection with, elections, and it
should be decided as to how these laws and rules are to be
made; (2) there should be an executive charged with the
duty of securing the due conduct of elections; and (3) there
should be a judicial tribunal to deal with disputes arising out
of or in connection with elections. Articles 327 and 328 deal
with the first of these requisites,
Article 324 with the second
and
Article 329 with the third requisite. The other two articles
in Part XV, viz, Articles 325 and 326 deal with two matters of
principle to which the Constitution-framers have attached
much importance. They are: (1) prohibition against
discrimination in the preparation of, or eligibility for inclusion
in, the electoral rolls, on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex
or any of them; and (2) adult suffrage. Part XV of the
Constitution is really a code in itself providing the entire
ground-work for enacting appropriate laws and setting up
suitable machinery for the conduct of elections.”

(at pages 228-230)

44

36. The Court then summed up its conclusions thus:

“It may be pointed out that Article 329(b) must be read as
complementary to clause (a) of that article. Clause (a) bars
the jurisdiction of the courts with regard to such law as may
be made under Articles 327 and 328 relating to the
delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to
such constituencies. It was conceded before us that
Article
329(b) ousts the jurisdiction of the courts with regard to
matters arising between the commencement of the polling
and the final selection. The question which has to be asked
is what conceivable reason the legislature could have had to
leave only matters connected with nominations subject to
the jurisdiction of the High Court under
Article 226 of the
Constitution. If Part XV of the Constitution is a code by itself
i.e., it creates rights and provides for their enforcement by a
Special Tribunal to the exclusion of all courts including the
High Court, there can be no reason for assuming that the
Constitution left one small part of the election process to be
made the subject-matter of contest before the High Courts
and thereby upset the time-schedule of the elections. The
more reasonable view seems to be that
Article 329 covers
all “electoral matters”.

The conclusions which I have arrived at may be summed up
briefly as follows:

(1) Having regard to the important functions which the
legislatures have to perform in democratic countries, it
has always been recognized to be a matter of first
importance that elections should be concluded as early
as possible according to time schedule and all
controversial matters and all disputes arising out of
elections should be postponed till after the elections are
over, so that the election proceedings may not be unduly
retarded or protracted.

45

(2) In conformity with this principle, the scheme the
election law in this country as well as in England is that
no significance should be attached to anything which
does not affect the ‘election’; and if any irregularities are
committed while it is in progress and they belong to the
category or class which, under the law by which
elections are governed, would have the effect of vitiating
the ‘election’ and enable the person affected to call it in
question, they should be brought up before a Special
Tribunal by means of an election petition and not be
made the subject of a dispute before any court while the
election is in progress.”

(at pages 233, 234)

37. Leaving open what the powers of this court and the High Courts

under Articles 226, 227 and 136 are after an Election Tribunal decides

a dispute before it, this Court held:

“It should be mentioned here that the question as to what
the powers of the High Court under Articles 226 and 227
and of this court under
Article 136 of the Constitution may
be, is one that will have to be decided on a proper
occasion.”
(at page 237)

38. What was left open in Ponnuswami’s case as to the powers of this

Court under Article 136 after an election tribunal had decided an

election petition before it was decided by this Court in Durga Shankar

Mehta v. Thakur Raghuraj Singh, (supra). This judgment described

the reach of the non-obstante clause contained in Article 329(b) as

follows:

46

“As has been said already, the non obstante clause in Article
329 prohibits challenge to an election either to Parliament or
any State Legislature, except in the manner laid down in
clause (2) of the article. But there is no prohibition of the
exercise of its powers by the Supreme Court in proper
cases under
Article 136 of the Constitution against the
decision or determination of an Election Tribunal which like
all other Judicial Tribunals comes within the purview of the
article. It is certainly desirable that the decisions on matters
of disputed election should, as soon as possible, become
final and conclusive so that the constitution of the legislature
may be distinctly and speedily known. But the powers under
Article 136 are exercisable only under exceptional
circumstances. The article does not create any general right
of appeal from decisions of all tribunals. As regards the
decision of this court in
Ponnuswami v. Returning Officer,
Namakkal Constituency [1952 SCR 218] to which reference
has been made by the learned counsel, we would only
desire to point out that all that this case decided was that
the High Court had no jurisdiction, under
Article 226 of the
Constitution, to interfere by a writ of certiorari, with the order
of a Returning Officer who was alleged to have wrongly
rejected the nomination paper of a particular candidate. It
was held that the word “election” in
Article 329(b) of the
Constitution had been used in the wide sense to connote
the entire process, culminating in a candidate’s being
declared elected and that the scheme of Part XV of the
Constitution was that all matters which had the effect of
vitiating election should be brought up only after the election
was over and by way of an election petition. The particular
point, which arises for consideration here, was not decided
in that case and was expressly left open.”
(at pages 274,275)

39. Likewise, a discussion on the reach of Article 329(b) and Article 226

of the Constitution after an election petition has been decided by an

47
election tribunal was then discussed in
Hari Vishnu Kamath v. Syed

Ahmad Ishaque, (supra):

“Now, the question is whether a writ is a proceeding in which
an election can properly be said to be called in question
within the meaning of
Article 329(b). On a plain reading of
the article, what is prohibited therein is the initiation of
proceedings for setting aside an election otherwise than by
an election petition presented to such authority and in such
manner as provided therein. A suit for setting aside an
election would be barred under this provision.
In N.P.
Ponnuswami v. Returning Officer, Namakkal Constituency
[1952 SCR 218] it was held by this court that the word
“election” in
Article 329(b) was used in a comprehensive
sense as including the entire process of election
commencing with the issue of a notification and terminating
with the declaration of election of a candidate, and that an
application under
Article 226 challenging the validity of any
of the acts forming part of that process would be barred.
These are instances of original proceedings calling in
question an election, and would be within the prohibition
enacted in
Article 329(b). But when once proceedings have
been instituted in accordance with
Article 329(b) by
presentation of an election petition, the requirements of that
article are fully satisfied. Thereafter when the election
petition is in due course heard by a tribunal and decided,
whether its decision is open to attack, and if so, where and
to what extent, must be determined by the general law
applicable to decisions of tribunals. There being no dispute
that they are subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the
High Courts under
Article 226, a writ of certiorari under that
article will be competent against decisions of the Election
Tribunals also.

The view that Article 329(b) is limited in its operation to
initiation of proceedings for setting aside an election and not
to the further stages following on the decision of the Tribunal

48
is considerably reinforced, when the question is considered
with reference to a candidate, whose election has been set
aside by the Tribunal. If he applies under
Article 226 for a
writ to set aside the order of the Tribunal, he cannot in any
sense be said to call in question the election; on the other
hand, he seeks to maintain it. His application could not,
therefore, be barred by
Article 329(b). And if the contention
of the first respondent is well-founded, the result will be that
proceedings under
Article 226 will be competent in one
event and not in another and at the instance of one party
and not the other. Learned counsel for the first respondent
was unable to give any reason why this differentiation
should be made. We cannot accept a construction which
leads to results so anomalous.”

(at pages 1111,1112)

40. In Narayan Bhaskar Khare (Dr) v. Election Commission of India

(supra), a 7-Judge Bench dealt with elections to the President and the

Vice President of India contained under Article 71. The Court held:

“As already indicated, Article 71(1) confers jurisdiction and
power on this court to inquire into and decide “all doubts and
disputes arising out of or in connection with the election of a
President or Vice-President”. The question is: Is there in this
Article or in any other part of the Constitution or anywhere
else any indication as to the time when such inquiry is to be
held? In the first place,
Article 71 postulates an “election of
the President or Vice-President” and provides for inquiry into
doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with such
an election. What is the meaning to be given to the word
“election” as used in this Article? If we give to the word
“election” occurring in
Article 71(1) the same wide meaning
as comprising the entire election process culminating in a
candidate being declared elected, then clearly the inquiry is

49
to be made after such completed election i.e. after a
candidate is declared to be elected as President or Vice-

President as the case may be. We see no reason why this
accepted meaning should not be given to the critical word.
In the second place, under clause 3 of
Article 71, subject to
the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament may by law
regulate any matter “relating to or connected with the
election” of a President or Vice-President. The words here
also are similar to those used in
Article 327 and are equally
wide enough to cover matters relating to or connected with
any stage of the entire election process. In exercise of
powers conferred on it by
Article 71(3), Parliament has
enacted the Presidential and
Vice-Presidential Election Act,
1952 (31 of 1952) to regulate certain matters relating to or
connected with elections to the office of President and Vice-
President of India. A glance through the provisions of this
Act will indicate that in the view of Parliament the time for
the exercise of jurisdiction by this court to inquire into and
decide doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection
with the Presidential election is after the entire election
process is completed.”

(at pages 1088,1089)

“The above stated interpretation appears to us to be in
consonance with the other provisions of the Constitution and
with good sense. If doubt or dispute arising out of or in
connection with the election of a President or Vice-President
can be brought before this court before the whole election
process is concluded then conceivably the entire election
may be held up till after the expiry of the five years’ term
which will involve a non-compliance with the mandatory
provisions of
Article 62. The well recognised principle of
election law, Indian and English, is that elections should not
be held up and that the person aggrieved should not be
permitted to ventilate his individual interest in derogation of
the general interest of the people, which requires that
elections should be gone through according to the time

50
schedule. It is, therefore, in consonance both with the
provisions of
Article 62 and with good sense to hold that the
word “election” used in
Article 71 means the entire process
of election. “

(at page 1090)

41. The judgment of Krishna Iyer,J. contained in Mohinder Singh Gill v.

Chief Election Commr. (supra), is of great importance and delineates

not only the parameters of Article 329(b) qua writ petitions filed under

Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India but also speaks of the

powers of the Election Commission in supervising and conducting the

entire election process. This Court made a distinction between

challenges under Article 226 while the election process is on which

interfere with the progress of the election as against approaching a writ

court to accelerate the completion of the election and to act in

furtherance of the election. The Court put it thus:

“28. What emerges from this perspicacious reasoning, if we
may say so with great respect, is that any decision sought
and rendered will not amount to “calling in question” an
election if it subserves the progress of the election and
facilitates the completion of the election. We should not slur
over the quite essential observation “Anything done towards
the completion of the election proceeding can by no stretch
of reasoning be described as questioning the election.”
Likewise, it is fallacious to treat “a single step taken in
furtherance of an election” as equivalent to election.

51

29. Thus, there are two types of decisions, two types of
challenges. The first relates to proceedings which interfere
with the progress of the election. The second accelerates
the completion of the election and acts in furtherance of an
election. So, the short question before us, in the light of the
illumination derived from Ponnuswami is as to whether the
order for re-poll of the Chief Election Commissioner is
“anything done towards the completion of the election
proceeding” and whether the proceedings before the High
Court fecilitated the election process or halted its progress.
The question immediately arises as to whether the relief
sought in the writ petition by the present appellant amounted
to calling in question the election. This, in turn, revolves
round the point as to whether the cancellation of the poll and
the reordering of fresh poll is “part of election” and
challenging it is “calling it in question”.

30. The plenary bar of Article 329(b) rests on two principles:
(1) The peremptory urgency of prompt engineering of the
whole election process without intermediate interruptions by
way of legal proceedings challenging the steps and stages
in between the commencement and the conclusion. (2) The
provision of a special jurisdiction which can be invoked by
an aggrieved party at the end of the election excludes other
form, the right and remedy being creatures of statutes and
controlled by the Constitution. Durga Shankar Mehta has
affirmed this position and supplemented it by holding that,
once the Election Tribunal has decided, the prohibition is
extinguished and the Supreme Court’s overall power to
interfere under
Article 136 springs into action. In Hari Vishnu
this court upheld the rule in Ponnuswami excluding any
proceeding, including one under
Article 226, during the on-
going process of election, understood in the comprehensive
sense of notification down to declaration. Beyond the
declaration comes the election petition, but beyond the
decision of the Tribunal the ban of
Article 329(b) does not
bind.

52

xxx xxx xxx

34.…But what is banned is not anything whatsoever done or
directed by the Commissioner but everything he does or
directs in furtherance of the election, not contrarywise. For
example, after the President notifies the nation on the
holding of elections under
Section 15 and the Commissioner
publishes the calendar for the poll under
Section 30, if the
latter orders Returning Officers to accept only one
nomination or only those which come from one party as
distinguished from other parties or independents, is that
order immune from immediate attack. We think not.
Because the Commissioner is preventing an election, not
promoting it and the court’s review of that order will facilitate
the flow, not stop the stream. Election, wide or narrow be its
connotation, means choice from a possible plurality,
monolithic politics not being our genius or reality, and if that
concept is crippled by the Commissioner’s act, he holds no
election at all.”

42. Dealing with the power of the Election Commission under Article 324

of the Constitution and judicial review of such power, in an important

passage Krishna Iyer,J. stated:

“38. Article 324, which we have set out earlier, is a plenary
provision vesting the whole responsibility for national and
State elections and, therefore, the necessary powers to
discharge that function. It is true that
Article 324 has to be
read in the light of the constitutional scheme and the 1950
Act and the 1951 Act. Sri Rao is right to the extent he insists
that if competent legislation is enacted as visualised in
Article 327 the Commission cannot shake itself free from the
enacted prescriptions. After all, as Mathew, J. has observed
in Indira Gandhi:

“In the opinion of some of the Judges constituting the
majority in Bharati’s case [
Kesavananda Bharati v. State

53
of Kerala, (1973) 4 SCC 225.] rule of law is a basic
structure of the Constitution apart from democracy.

The rule of law postulates the pervasiveness of the spirit
of law throughout the whole range of Government in the
sense of excluding arbitrary official action in any
sphere.”

And the supremacy of valid law over the Commission
argues itself. No one is an imperium in imperio in our
constitutional order. It is reasonable to hold that the
Commissioner cannot defy the law armed by
Article 324.
Likewise, his functions are subject to the norms of fairness
and he cannot act arbitrarily. Unchecked power is alien to
our system.

39. Even so, situations may arise which enacted law has not
provided for. Legislators are not prophets but pragmatists.
So it is that the Constitution has made comprehensive
provision in
Article 324 to take care of surprise situations.
That power itself has to be exercised, not mindlessly nor
mala fide, not arbitrarily nor with partiality but in keeping with
the guidelines of the rule of law and not stultifying the
Presidential notification nor existing legislation. More is not
necessary to specify; less is insufficient to leave unsaid.
Article 324, in our view, operates in areas left unoccupied by
legislation and the words “superintendence, direction and
control, as well as ‘conduct of all elections’, are the broadest
terms”. Myriad maybes, too mystic to be precisely presaged,
may call for prompt action to reach the goal of free and fair
election. It has been argued that this will create a
constitutional despot beyond the pale of accountability; a
Frankenstein’s monster who may manipulate the system
into elected despotism — instances of such phenomena are
the tears of history. To that the retort may be that the judicial
branch, at the appropriate stage, with the potency of its
benignant power and within the leading strings of legal
guidelines, can call the bluff, quash the action and bring
order into the process.”

54

43. Finally, the court summarized its conclusions as follows:

“92. Diffusion, even more elaborate discussion, tends to blur
the precision of the conclusion in a judgment and so it is
meet that we synopsize the formulations. Of course, the
condensed statement we make is for convenience, not for
exclusion of the relevance or attenuation of the binding
impact of the detailed argumentation. For this limited
purpose, we set down our holdings:

“(1)(a) Article 329(b) is a blanket ban on litigative
challenges to electoral steps taken by the Election
Commission and its officers for carrying forward the
process of election to its culmination in the formal
declaration of the result.

(b) Election, in this context, has a very wide
connotation commencing from the Presidential
notification calling upon the electorate to elect and
culminating in the final declaration of the returned
candidate.

(2)(a) The Constitution contemplates a free and fair
election and vests comprehensive responsibilities of
superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of
elections in the Election Commission. This responsibility
may cover powers, duties and functions of many sorts,
administrative or other, depending on the circumstances.

(b) Two limitations at least are laid on its plenary
character in the exercise thereof. Firstly, when
Parliament or any State Legislature has made valid law
relating to or in connection with elections, the
Commission, shall act in conformity with, not in violation
of, such provisions but where such law is silent
Article
324 is a reservoir of power to act for the avowed
purpose of, not divorced from, pushing forward a free
and fair election with expedition. Secondly, the
Commission shall be responsible to the rule of law, act

55
bona fide and be amenable to the norms of natural
justice insofar as conformance to such canons can
reasonably and realistically be required of it as fairplay-
in-action in a most important area of the constitutional
order viz. elections. Fairness does import an obligation
to see that no wrongdoer candidate benefits by his own
wrong. To put the matter beyond doubt, natural justice
enlivens and applies to the specific case of order for
total re-poll, although not in full panoply but in flexible
practicability. Whether it has been complied with is left
open for the Tribunal’s adjudication.

(3) The conspectus of provisions bearing on the
subject of elections clearly expresses the rule that there
is a remedy for every wrong done during the election in
progress although it is postponed to the post-election
stage and procedure as predicated in
Article 329(b) and
the 1951 Act. The Election Tribunal has, under the
various provisions of the Act, large enough powers to
give relief to an injured candidate if he makes out a case
and such processual amplitude of power extends to
directions to the Election Commission or other
appropriate agency to hold a poll, to bring up the ballots
or do other thing necessary for fulfilment of the
jurisdiction to undo illegality and injustice and do
complete justice within the parameters set by the
existing law.”

44. In Boddula Krishnaiah and Another v. State Election

Commissioner, A.P. Ors., (1996) 3 SCC 416, a Gram Panchayat

election notification had been issued, subsequent to which the High

Court, by interim orders directed 94 persons to participate in the

election. By subsequent interim orders, the claims of various

56
respondents were to be ascertained, and ultimately, the Revenue

Divisional Officer found 20 persons to be eligible to be included in the

voters list, as a result of which the High Court directed that these

persons should be allowed to participate in the election. This Court

held:

“11. Thus, it would be clear that once an election process
has been set in motion, though the High Court may entertain
or may have already entertained a writ petition, it would not
be justified in interfering with the election process giving
direction to the election officer to stall the proceedings or to
conduct the election process afresh, in particular when
election has already been held in which the voters were
allegedly prevented from exercising their franchise. As seen,
that dispute is covered by an election dispute and remedy is
thus available at law for redressal.

12. Under these circumstances, we hold that the order
passed by the High Court is not correct in law in giving
direction not to declare the result of the election or to
conduct fresh poll for 20 persons, though the writ petition is
maintainable. The High Court, pending writ petition, would
not be justified in issuing direction to stall the election
process. It is made clear that though we have held that the
respondents are not entitled to the relief by interim order,
this order does not preclude any candidate including
defeated candidate from canvassing the correctness of the
election. They are free, as held earlier, to seek remedy by
way of an election petition as provided in the Act and the
Rules.”

45. In Election Commission of India v. Ashok Kumar (supra), a 3-

Judge Bench of this Court reviewed the entire case law relating to

57
Article 329(b) and Article 226 holding:

“28. Election disputes are not just private civil disputes
between two parties. Though there is an individual or a few
individuals arrayed as parties before the court but the stakes
of the constituency as a whole are on trial. Whichever way
the lis terminates it affects the fate of the constituency and
the citizens generally. A conscientious approach with
overriding consideration for welfare of the constituency and
strengthening the democracy is called for. Neither turning a
blind eye to the controversies which have arisen nor
assuming a role of overenthusiastic activist would do. The
two extremes have to be avoided in dealing with election
disputes.”

A useful summary of conclusions based on the case law was then set

out by the court as follows:

“31. The founding fathers of the Constitution have
consciously employed use of the words “no election shall be
called in question” in the body of
Section 329(b) and these
words provide the determinative test for attracting
applicability of
Article 329(b). If the petition presented to the
court “calls in question an election” the bar of
Article 329(b)
is attracted. Else it is not.

32. For convenience’s sake we would now generally sum up
our conclusions by partly restating what the two Constitution
Benches have already said and then adding by clarifying
what follows therefrom in view of the analysis made by us
hereinabove:

(1)If an election, (the term election being widely interpreted so as
to include all steps and entire proceedings commencing from
the date of notification of election till the date of declaration of
result) is to be called in question and which questioning may
have the effect of interrupting, obstructing or protracting the
election proceedings in any manner, the invoking of judicial

58
remedy has to be postponed till after the completing of
proceedings in elections.

(2)Any decision sought and rendered will not amount to “calling
in question an election” if it subserves the progress of the
election and facilitates the completion of the election. Anything
done towards completing or in furtherance of the election
proceedings cannot be described as questioning the election.

(3)Subject to the above, the action taken or orders issued by
Election Commission are open to judicial review on the well-
settled parameters which enable judicial review of decisions of
statutory bodies such as on a case of mala fide or arbitrary
exercise of power being made out or the statutory body being
shown to have acted in breach of law.

(4)Without interrupting, obstructing or delaying the progress of
the election proceedings, judicial intervention is available if
assistance of the court has been sought for merely to correct
or smoothen the progress of the election proceedings, to
remove the obstacles therein, or to preserve a vital piece of
evidence if the same would be lost or destroyed or rendered
irretrievable by the time the results are declared and stage is
set for invoking the jurisdiction of the court.

(5)The court must be very circumspect and act with caution while
entertaining any election dispute though not hit by the bar of
Article 329(b) but brought to it during the pendency of election
proceedings. The court must guard against any attempt at
retarding, interrupting, protracting or stalling of the election
proceedings. Care has to be taken to see that there is no
attempt to utilise the court’s indulgence by filing a petition
outwardly innocuous but essentially a subterfuge or pretext for
achieving an ulterior or hidden end. Needless to say that in
the very nature of the things the court would act with
reluctance and shall not act, except on a clear and strong
case for its intervention having been made out by raising the
pleas with particulars and precision and supporting the same
by necessary material.”

59

46. In Kurapati Maria Das v. Dr. Ambedkar Seva Samajan, (2009) 7

SCC 387, the validity of a caste certificate came up for determination in

a writ petition that was filed which challenged municipal elections made

to a reserved constituency. In this context, this court held:

“18. Regarding the bar of jurisdiction under Article 243-
ZG(b), learned counsel Shri Gagan Gupta submitted that
the decision relied upon by the High Court as
K.
Venkatachalam v. A. Swamickan [(1999) 4 SCC 526] was
applicable and, therefore, it could not be said that there was
a bar to the entertainment of the writ petition under Article

226. Learned counsel supported the factual findings
recorded by the High Court to the effect that the appellant
was a Christian and, therefore, could not claim the status of
a person belonging to the Scheduled Caste, more
particularly, caste “Mala”.

19. In the first place, it would be better to consider as to
whether the bar under
Article 243-ZG(b) is an absolute bar.
The article reads thus:

“243-ZG. (b) no election to any Municipality shall be
called in question except by an election petition
presented to such authority and in such manner as is
provided for by or under any law made by the legislature
of a State.”

At least from the language of clause (b), it is clear that the
bar is absolute. Normally, where such a bar is expressed in
a negative language as is the case here, it has to be held
that the tone of clause (b) is mandatory and the bar created
therein is absolute.

20. This Court in its recent decisions has held the bar to be
absolute. First such decision is
Jaspal Singh Arora v. State
of M.P. [(1998) 9 SCC 594] In this case the election of the

60
petitioner as the President of the Municipal Council was
challenged by a writ petition under
Article 226, which was
allowed setting aside the election of the petitioner. In para 3
of this judgment, the Court observed:

“3. … it is clear that the election could not be called in
question except by an election petition as provided
under that Act. The bar to interference by courts in
electoral matters contained in
Article 243-ZG of the
Constitution was apparently overlooked by the High
Court in allowing the writ petition. Apart from the bar
under
Article 243-ZG, on settled principles interference
under
Article 226 of the Constitution for the purpose of
setting aside election to a municipality was not called for
because of the statutory provision for election
petition….”

21. The second such decision is Gurdeep Singh
Dhillon v. Satpal [(2006) 10 SCC 616]. In that decision, after
quoting
Article 243-ZG(b) the Court observed that the
shortcut of filing the writ petition and invoking constitutional
jurisdiction of the High Court under Articles 226/227 was not
permissible and the only remedy available to challenge the
election was by raising the election dispute under the local
statute.

22. There is no dispute that Rule 1 of the Andhra Pradesh
Municipalities (Decision on Election Disputes) Rules, 1967,
specifically provides for challenging the election of
Councillor or Chairman. It was tried to be feebly argued that
this was a petition for quo warranto and not only for
challenging the election of the appellant herein. This
contention is clearly incorrect. When we see the writ petition
filed before the High Court, it clearly suggests that what is
challenged is the election. In fact the Prayer clauses (b) and

(c) are very clear to suggest that it is the election of the
appellant which is in challenge.”

47. In W.B. State Election Commission v. Communist Party of India

61
(Marxist) (supra), the West Bengal State Commission issued certain

directions extending the last date for submitting nominations by one

day, after which the said order was recalled on the next day. A learned

single Judge of the High Court delivered a judgment in which the order

cancelling the extension was quashed and the commission was

directed to issue a fresh notification extending the date for filing

nomination. In obedience to this order, the SEC issued a notification

extending the date for filing of nominations on 21.04.2018. Writ

petitions were then filed which were dismissed by a learned Single

Judge, who declined to interfere with the election process. Ultimately,

after fresh writ petitions were moved before a single Judge of the

Calcutta High Court, the single Judge declined to give any further

directions, more particularly, that the SEC be made to accept

nominations already filed in electronic forms. The Division Bench, while

disposing of the appeal, directed the SEC to accept nominations in

electronic forms by those candidates who had submitted them on or

before 3.00 p.m. on 23.04.2018. After setting out the relevant

provisions of the Panchayat Elections Act, this Court held:

“28. The Panchayat Elections Act is a complete code in
regard to the conduct of the poll and for the resolution of

62
disputes concerning the validity of the election.
Article 243-K
entrusts the superintendence, direction and control over the
conduct of all elections to the panchayats in the State
Election Commission. Clause (b) of
Article 243-O stipulates
thus:

“243-O. Bar to interference by courts in electoral
matters.—Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution

***

(b) no election to any Panchayat shall be called in
question except by an election petition presented to
such authority and in such manner as is provided for by
or under any law made by the legislature of a State.”

29. There is merit in the submission that the discipline which
is mandated by the provisions of the Constitution and
enforced by the enabling State law on the subject must be
maintained. Any dispute in regard to the validity of the
election has to be espoused by adopting a remedy which is
known to law, namely, through an election petition. It is at
the trial of an election petition that factual disputes can be
resolved on the basis of evidence. This principle has been
consistently adhered to in decisions of this court.
In Boddula
Krishnaiah v. State Election Commr., A.P., (1996) 3 SCC
416, a three-Judge Bench adverted to the decisions of the
Constitution Bench in
N.P. Ponnuswami v. Returning Officer,
Namakkal Constituency, 1952 SCR 218 in
Lakshmi Charan
Sen v. A.K.M. Hassan Uzzaman, (1985) 4 SCC 689. After
referring to Ponnuswami, it was observed:

“8. In N.P. Ponnuswami v. Returning Officer, Namakkal
Constituency a Constitution Bench of this court had held
that having regard to the important functions which the
legislatures have to perform in democratic countries, it
has always been recognised to be a matter of first
importance that elections should be concluded as early

63
as possible according to time-schedule and all
controversial matters and all disputes arising out of
elections should be postponed till after the elections are
over so that the election proceedings may not be unduly
retarded or protracted. In conformity with the principle,
the scheme of the election law is that no significance
should be attached to anything which does not affect the
“election”; and if any irregularities are committed while it
is in progress and they belong to the category or class
which under the law by which elections are governed,
would have the effect of vitiating the “election”; and
enable the person affected to call it in question, they
should be brought up before a Special Tribunal by
means of an election petition and not be made the
subject of a dispute before any court while the election
is in progress.”

The binding principle must be followed.

xxx xxx xxx

33. For these reasons, we are of the view that challenges in
regard to the validity of the elections to the uncontested
seats in the panchayats, Panchayat Samitis and Zila
Parishads must also be pursued in election petitions under
Section 79(1) of the Panchayat Elections Act. We leave it
open to any person aggrieved to raise a dispute in the form
of an election petition in accordance with the provisions
contained in the Panchayat Elections Act. In exercise of the
power conferred by
Article 142, we direct that the period of
30 days for filing election petitions in respect of the
uncontested seats shall commence from the date of the
publication of the results in the Official Gazette.”

48. A recent judgment of 3 learned Judges in Laxmibai v. Collector,

(supra), comes nearer home when it deals with municipal elections,

and holds as follows:

64

“42. This court again examined the question in respect of
raising a dispute relating to an election of a local body
before the High Court by way of a writ petition under
Article
226 of the Constitution of India in a judgment reported as
Harnek Singh v. Charanjit Singh [Harnek Singh v. Charanjit
Singh, (2005) 8 SCC 383]. It was held as under:

“15. Prayers (b) and (c) aforementioned, evidently, could
not have been granted [
Charanjit Singh v. State of
Punjab, 2003 SCC OnLine PH 1226] in favour of the
petitioner by the High Court in exercise of its jurisdiction
under
Article 226 of the Constitution of India. It is true
that the High Court exercises a plenary jurisdiction
under
Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Such
jurisdiction being discretionary in nature may not be
exercised inter alia keeping in view the fact that an
efficacious alternative remedy is available therefor. (
See
Sanjana M. Wig v. Hindustan Petroleum Corpn. Ltd.
(2005) 8 SCC 242 )

16. Article 243-O of the Constitution of India mandates
that all election disputes must be determined only by
way of an election petition. This by itself may not per se
bar judicial review which is the basic structure of the
Constitution, but ordinarily such jurisdiction would not be
exercised. There may be some cases where a writ
petition would be entertained but in this case we are not
concerned with the said question.

17. In C. Subrahmanyam [C. Subrahmanyam v. K.

Ramanjaneyullu, (1998) 8 SCC 703], a three-Judge
Bench of this court observed that a writ petition should
not be entertained when the main question which fell for
decision before the High Court was non-compliance with
the provisions of the Act which was one of the grounds
for an election petition in terms of Rule 12 framed under
the Act.”

65

43. Section 10-A of the 1959 Act and Section 9-A of the
1961 Act read with Articles 243-K and 243-O, are pari
materia with
Article 324 of the Constitution of India. In view
of the judgments referred, we find that the remedy of an
aggrieved person accepting or rejecting nomination of a
candidate is by way of an election petition in view of the bar
created under
Section 15-A of the 1959 Act. The said Act is
a complete code providing machinery for redressal to the
grievances pertaining to election as contained in
Section 15
of the 1959 Act. The High Court though exercises
extraordinary jurisdiction under
Article 226 of the
Constitution of India but such jurisdiction is discretionary in
nature and may not be exercised in view of the fact that an
efficacious alternative remedy is available and more so
exercise restraint in terms of
Article 243-O of the
Constitution of India. Once alternate machinery is provided
by the statute, the recourse to writ jurisdiction is not an
appropriate remedy. It is a prudent discretion to be
exercised by the High Court not to interfere in the election
matters, especially after declaration of the results of the
elections but relegate the parties to the remedy
contemplated by the statute. In view of the above, the writ
petition should not have been entertained by the High Court.
However, the order of the High Court that the appellant has
not furnished the election expenses incurred on the date of
election does not warrant any interference.”

Powers of the State Election Commission under Article 243K r/w

243ZA

49. In Election Commission of India v. Shivaji, (supra), this court after

referring to Ponnuswami’s case then referred to the powers of the

Election Commission under Article 324 as follows:

66

“6. ………… If there was any such error committed in the
course of the election process the Election Commission had
the authority to set it right by virtue of power vested in it
under
Article 324 of the Constitution as decided in Mohinder
Singh Gill v. Chief Election Commissioner [(1978) 1 SCC
405] and to see that the election process was completed in
a fair manner.”

50. Similarly, in Digvijay Mote v. Union of India, (1993) 4 SCC 175, this

court referred to the powers of the Election Commission under Article

324 of the Constitution as follows:

“8. The conduct of election is in the hands of the Election
Commission which has the power of superintendence,
direction and control of elections vested in it as per
Article
324 of the Constitution. Consequently, if the Election
Commission is of the opinion that having regard to the
disturbed conditions of a State or a part thereof, free and fair
elections could not be held it may postpone the same.
Accordingly, on account of unsettled conditions, the
elections in the States of Assam Jammu and Kashmir
could be postponed.

9. However, it has to be stated this power is not unbridled.
Judicial review will still be permissible, over the statutory
body exercising its functions affecting public law rights.

xxx xxx xxx

14. The resultant position is that it cannot be stated that the
exercise of power under
Article 324 is not altogether
unreviewable. The review will depend upon the facts and
circumstances of each case.”

51. In Kishansing Tomar v. Municipal Corpn., Ahmedabad (supra), a

Constitution Bench of this Court clearly set out the powers of the State

67
Election Commissions under the Constitution as follows:

“22. In our opinion, the entire provision in the Constitution
was inserted to see that there should not be any delay in the
constitution of the new municipality every five years and in
order to avoid the mischief of delaying the process of
election and allowing the nominated bodies to continue, the
provisions have been suitably added to the Constitution. In
this direction, it is necessary for all the State Governments
to recognise the significance of the State Election
Commission, which is a constitutional body and it shall
abide by the directions of the Commission in the same
manner in which it follows the directions of the Election
Commission of India during the elections for Parliament and
the State Legislatures. In fact, in the domain of elections to
the panchayats and the municipal bodies under Part IX and
Part IX-A for the conduct of the elections to these bodies
they enjoy the same status as the Election Commission of
India.

23. In terms of Article 243-K and Article 243-ZA(1) the same
powers are vested in the State Election Commission as the
Election Commission of India under
Article 324. The words
in the former provisions are in pari materia with the latter
provision.

24. The words, “superintendence, direction and control” as
well as “conduct of elections” have been held in the
“broadest of terms” by this court in several decisions
including Special Reference No. 1 of 2002, In re [Special
Reference No. 1 of 2002, In re, (2002) 8 SCC 237] and
Mohinder Singh Gill case [
Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief
Election Commr., (1978) 1 SCC 405] and the question is
whether this is equally relevant in respect of the powers of
the State Election Commission as well.

25. From a reading of the said provisions it is clear that the
powers of the State Election Commission in respect of
conduct of elections is no less than that of the Election

68
Commission of India in their respective domains. These
powers are, of course, subject to the law made by
Parliament or by the State Legislatures, provided the same
do not encroach upon the plenary powers of the said
Election Commissions.

26. The State Election Commissions are to function
independent of the State Governments concerned in the
matter of their powers of superintendence, direction and
control of all elections and preparation of electoral rolls for,
and the conduct of, all elections to the panchayats and
municipalities.

27. Article 243-K(3) also recognises the independent status
of the State Election Commission. It states that upon a
request made in that behalf the Governor shall make
available to the State Election Commission “such staff as
may be necessary for the discharge of the functions
conferred on the State Election Commission by clause (1)”.
It is accordingly to be noted that in the matter of the conduct
of elections, the Government concerned shall have to
render full assistance and cooperation to the State Election
Commission and respect the latter’s assessment of the
needs in order to ensure that free and fair elections are
conducted.

28. Also, for the independent and effective functioning of the
State Election Commission, where it feels that it is not
receiving the cooperation of the State Government
concerned in discharging its constitutional obligation of
holding the elections to the panchayats or municipalities
within the time mandated in the Constitution, it will be open
to the State Election Commission to approach the High
Courts, in the first instance, and thereafter the Supreme
Court for a writ of mandamus or such other appropriate writ
directing the State Government concerned to provide all
necessary cooperation and assistance to the State Election
Commission to enable the latter to fulfil the constitutional
mandate.”

69

52. Given the fact that the scheme contained in Part XV is bodily lifted

into the provisions contained in Part IX-A, the powers exercised by the

SEC under Article 243ZA(1) are the same as those vested in the

Election Commission of India under Article 324 of the Constitution of

India. As has been pointed out in Mohinder Singh Gill (supra) and the

aforesaid decisions, the entire supervision and conduct of elections to

municipalities is vested in a constitutional authority that is the SEC

which is to supervise and conduct elections by giving orders and

directions to the State Government as well as authorities that are set

up under State statutes for the purpose of supervision and conduct of

elections. The power thus conferred by the Constitution is a power

given to the SEC not only to carry out the constitutional mandate but

also to fill in gaps where there is no law or rule governing a particular

situation during the conduct of an election. The SEC, being an

independent constitutional functionary, is not only to be obeyed by the

State Government and the other authorities under local State statutes,

but can also approach the writ court under Articles 226 and 227 of the

Constitution of India to either enforce directions or orders issued by it

or to ask for appropriate orders from High Courts in that behalf.

70

Bar contained in Articles 243ZG(a) / 329(a).

53. So far as delimitation and allocation of seats is concerned, the bar

contained in Article 243ZG(a) operates together with the non-obstante

clause contained therein to bar all courts from interfering with State

statutes dealing with delimitation and allocation of seats, just as is the

bar contained in Article 329(a) of the Constitution. In Lakshmi Charan

Sen v. A.K.M. Hassan Uzzaman (supra), Chandrachud,CJ. speaking

for the majority of a Constitution Bench of this court, held that the

delimitation process and the making of electoral rolls is independent of

the process of any particular election and thus held:

“27. …In Rampakavi Rayappa Belagali [(1970) 3 SCC 147] ,
it was held that the scheme of the Act of 1950 and the
amplitude of its provisions show that the entries made in an
electoral roll of a constituency can only be challenged in
accordance with the machinery provided by the Act and not
in any other manner or before any other forum unless, some
question of violation of the provisions of the Constitution is
involved. In Mohinder Singh Gill [(1978) 1 SCC 405],
Krishna Iyer, J., speaking for the Constitution Bench, has
considered at great length the scope and meaning of
Article
329(b) of the Constitution. Describing that article as the
“Great Wall of China”, the learned Judge posed the question
whether it is so impregnable that it cannot be bypassed
even by
Article 226. Observing that “every step from start to
finish of the total process constitutes ‘election’, not merely
the conclusion or culmination”, the judgment concludes
thus:

71

“The rainbow of operations, covered by the
compendious expression ‘election’, thus commences
from the initial notification and culminates in the
declaration of the return of a candidate.”

28. We have expressed the view that preparation and
revision of electoral rolls is a continuous process, not
connected with any particular election. It may be difficult,
consistently with that view, to hold that preparation and
revision of electoral rolls is a part of the “election” within the
meaning of
Article 329(b). Perhaps, as stated in Halsbury in
the passage extracted in Ponnuswami [AIR 1952 SC 64],
the facts of each individual case may have to be considered
for determining the question whether any particular stage
can be said to be a part of the election process in that case.
In that event, it would be difficult to formulate a proposition
which will apply to all cases alike.”

54. This judgment was followed by another Constitution Bench in Indrajit

Barua v. Election Commission of India (supra), the Court holding:

“12. …We are not prepared to take the view that preparation
of electoral rolls is also a process of election. We find
support for our view from the observations of Chandrachud,
C.J. in Lakshmi Charan Sen case [AIR 1957 SC 304] that “it
may be difficult, consistently with that view, to hold that
preparation and revision of electoral roll, is a part of
‘election’ within the meaning of
Article 329(b)”. In a suitable
case challenge to the electoral roll for not complying with the
requirements of the law may be entertained subject to the
rule indicated in Ponnuswami case [(1985) 4 SCC 689] . But
the election of a candidate is not open to challenge on the
score of the electoral roll being defective. Holding the
election to the Legislature and holding them according to
law are both matters of paramount importance. Such
elections have to be held also in accordance with a time
bound programme contemplated in the Constitution and the
72
Act. The proviso added in
Section 22(2) of the Act of 1950 is
intended to extend cover to the electoral rolls in
eventualities which otherwise might have interfered with the
smooth working of the programme. These are the reasons
for which we came to the conclusion that the electoral roll of
1979 had not been vitiated and was not open to be attacked
as invalid.”

55. In Meghraj Kothari v. Delimitation Commission (supra), this court

dealt with Sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Delimitation Commission Act,

1962, and the bar contained in Article 329(a) as follows:

“In this case we are not, faced with that difficulty because
the Constitution itself provides under
Article 329(a) that any
law relating to the delimitation of constituencies etc. made or
purporting to be made under
Article 327 shall not be called
in question in any court. Therefore an order under
Section 8
or 9 and published under
Section 10(1) would not be saved
merely because of the use of the expression “shall not be
called in question in any court”. But if by the publication of
the order in the Gazette of India it is to be treated as law
made under
Article 327, Article 329 would prevent any
investigation by any court of law.”

(at page 408)

xxx xxx xxx

“In our view, therefore, the objection to the delimitation of
constituencies could only be entertained by the Commission
before the date specified. Once the orders made by the
Commission under
Sections 8 and 9 were published in the
Gazette of India and in the Official Gazettes of the States
concerned, these matters could no longer be reagitated in a
court of law. There seems to be very good reason behind
such a provision. If the orders made under
Sections 8 and 9
were not to be treated as final, the effect would be that any

73
voter, if he so wished, could hold up an election indefinitely
by questioning the delimitation of the constituencies from
court to court.
Section 10(2) of the Act clearly demonstrates
the intention of the Legislature that the orders under
Sections 8 and 9 published under Section 10(1) were to be
treated as law which was not to be questioned in any court.

It is true that an order under Section 8 or 9 published under
Section 10(1) is not part of an Act of Parliament, but its
effect is to be the same.”

(at pages 410,411)

xxx xxx xxx

“In the instant case the provision of Section 10(4) of the Act
puts orders under
Sections 8 and 9 as published under
Section 10(1) in the same street as a law made by
Parliament itself which, as we have already said, could only
be done under
Article 327, and consequently the objection
that the notification was not to be treated as law cannot be
given effect to.”

(at page 415)

56. This judgment was followed in Assn. of Residents of Mhow (ROM)

v. Delimitation Commission of India, (2009) 5 SCC 404, which dealt

with Sections 9 and 10 of the Delimitation Act, 2002. The Court held:

“35. This court in Pradhan [1995 Supp (2) SCC 305] was not
considering any similar issue as the one that has arisen for
our consideration in the present case. This court did not
take any view that the proposals in respect of each
constituency shall have to be treated as an independent
proposal and the Commission’s power to determine
delimitation of the constituencies is with reference to each
constituency. The objections and/or suggestions, as the
case may be, are required to be taken into consideration
74
treating the proposals as for the whole of the State and
delimitation of the constituencies with reference to a State
as a unit.

36. In Meghraj Kothari v. Delimitation Commission [(1967) 1
SCR 400] a Constitution Bench of this court while
interpreting
Sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Delimitation
Commission Act, 1962 which are in pari materia with the
provisions of the present Act, observed:

“19. In our view, therefore, the objection to the
delimitation of constituencies could only be entertained
by the Commission before the date specified. Once the
orders made by the Commission under
Sections 8 and 9
were published in the Gazette of India and in the Official
Gazettes of the States concerned, these matters could
no longer be reagitated in a court of law. There seems to
be very good reason behind such a provision. If the
orders made under
Sections 8 and 9 were not to be
treated as final, the effect would be that any voter, if he
so wished, could hold up an election indefinitely by
questioning the delimitation of the constituencies from
court to court.
Section 10(2) of the Act clearly
demonstrates the intention of the legislature that the
orders under
Sections 8 and 9 published under Section
10(1) were to be treated as law which was not to be
questioned in any court.

20. It is true that an order under Section 8 or 9 published
under
Section 10(1) is not part of an Act of Parliament,
but its effect is to be the same.”

37. The Constitution Bench went to the extent of saying that:
(Meghraj Kothari case [(1967) 1 SCR 400]

“18. An examination of Sections 8 and 9 of the Act
shows that the matters therein dealt with were not to be
subject to the scrutiny of any court of law. …

***
75

32. … the provision of Section 10(4) of the Act puts
orders under
Sections 8 and 9 as published under
Section 10(1) in the same street as a law made by
Parliament itself which, … could only be done under
Article 327, and consequently the objection that the
notification was not to be treated as law cannot be given
effect to.”

Conclusion

38. In the present case, the Commission finally determined
the delimitation of parliamentary constituencies in the State
of Madhya Pradesh after considering all the objections and
suggestions received by it before the specified date and got
published its orders in the Gazette of India and in the Official
Gazette of the State as is required under
Section 10(1) of
the Act. The orders so published puts them “in the same
street as a law made by Parliament itself”. Consequently
that notification is to be treated as law and required to be
given effect to.”

57. In Rampakavi Rayappa Belagali v. B.D. Jatti, (1970) 3 SCC 147,

the Court dealt with the scheme of the Representation of People Act,

1950 and its inter-relation with Article 329(a) as follows:

“7. …The entire scheme of the Act of 1950 and the
amplitude of its provisions show that the entries made in an
Electoral Roll of a constituency can only be challenged in
accordance with the machinery provided by it and not in any
other manner or before any other forum unless some
question of violation of the provisions of the Constitution is
involved. …..

8. The other provisions relating to election are contained in
Part XV of the Constitution.
Article 324 deals with the
superintendence, direction and control of elections which
are vested in the Election Commission.
Article 325 declares

76
that no person shall be ineligible for inclusion in an Electoral
Roll on account only of religion, race, caste, sex or any of
them.
Article 326 says that the elections to the House of
People and the Legislative Assemblies of State shall be on
the basis of adult franchise.
Article 327 gives power to the
Parliament to make provisions with respect to elections to
Legislatures.
Article 329 bars the interference of courts in
electoral matters. By virtue of that Article no election shall be
called in question except by an election petition. It is
abundantly clear that in the present case the question
whether Respondent 1 was ordinarily resident in Jamkhandi
Constituency during the material period and was entitled to
be registered in the Electoral Roll could not be the subject-
matter of enquiry except in accordance with the provisions
of the Act of 1950. The grounds on which the election can
be declared to be void under the Act are set out in
Section
100 of the Act. Clause (d) is “that the result of the election,
insofar as it concerns a returned candidate, has been
materially affected—(2) ……………… (i)……..

………………….. (ii) ……………………………. (iii) ……………..

(iv) by any non-compliance with the provisions of the
Constitution or of this Act or of any rules or orders made
under this Act”. Nothing could be clearer than the ambit of
this provision. It does not entitle the court in an election
petition to set aside any election on the ground of non-
compliance with the provisions of the Act of 1950 or of any
rules made thereunder with the exception of
Section 16.”

58. However, in State of U.P. v. Pradhan Sangh Kshettra Samiti, 1995

Supp (2) SCC 305, a division bench of this Court delineated the scope

of interference so far as delimitation of Panchayat areas is concerned,

as follows:

“44. It is for the Government to decide in what manner the
panchayat areas and the constituencies in each panchayat

77
area will be delimited. It is not for the court to dictate the
manner in which the same would be done. So long as the
panchayat areas and the constituencies are delimited in
conformity with the constitutional provisions or without
committing a breach thereof, the courts cannot interfere with
the same. xxx

45. What is more objectionable in the approach of the High
court is that although clause (a) of
Article 243-O of the
Constitution enacts a bar on the interference by the courts in
electoral matters including the questioning of the validity of
any law relating to the delimitation of the constituencies or
the allotment of seats to such constituencies made or
purported to be made under
Article 243-K and the election
to any panchayat, the High Court has gone into the question
of the validity of the delimitation of the constituencies and
also the allotment of seats to them. We may, in this
connection, refer to a decision of this court in
Meghraj
Kothari v. Delimitation Commission [(1967) 1 SCR 400]. In
that case, a notification of the Delimitation Commission
whereby a city which had been a general constituency was
notified as reserved for the Scheduled Castes. This was
challenged on the ground that the petitioner had a right to
be a candidate for Parliament from the said constituency
which had been taken away. This court held that the
impugned notification was a law relating to the delimitation
of the constituencies or the allotment of seats to such
constituencies made under
Article 327 of the Constitution,
and that an examination of
Sections 8 and 9 of the
Delimitation Commission Act showed that the matters
therein dealt with were not subject to the scrutiny of any
court of law. There was a very good reason for such a
provision because if the orders made under
Sections 8 and
9 were not to be treated as final, the result would be that
any voter, if he so wished, could hold up an election
indefinitely by questioning the delimitation of the
constituencies from court to court. Although an order under
Section 8 or Section 9 of the Delimitation Commission Act

78
and published under
Section 10(1) of that Act is not part of
an Act of Parliament, its effect is the same.
Section 10(4) of
that Act puts such an order in the same position as a law
made by Parliament itself which could only be made by it
under
Article 327. If we read Articles 243-C, 243-K and 243-
O in place of
Article 327 and Sections 2(kk), 11-F and 12-BB
of the Act in place of
Sections 8 and 9 of the Delimitation
Act, 1950, it will be obvious that neither the delimitation of
the panchayat area nor of the constituencies in the said
areas and the allotments of seats to the constituencies
could have been challenged nor the court could have
entertained such challenge except on the ground that before
the delimitation, no objections were invited and no hearing
was given. Even this challenge could not have been
entertained after the notification for holding the elections
was issued. The High Court not only entertained the
challenge but has also gone into the merits of the alleged
grievances although the challenge was made after the
notification for the election was issued on 31-8-1994.”

59. The judgment in Anugrah Narain Singh v. State of U.P., (1996) 6

SCC 303 is instructive in that it deals with a local law namely the U.P.

Nagar Maha Palika Adhiniyam, 1959, in the context of challenges

made to orders under that Act. Meghraj’s case was distinguished by

this court as follows:

“24. The validity of Sections 6-A, 31, 32 and 33 of the U.P.

Act dealing with delimitation of wards cannot be questioned
in a court of law because of the express bar imposed by
Article 243-ZG of the Constitution. Section 7 contains rules
for allotment of seats to the Scheduled Castes, the
Scheduled Tribes and the Backward Class people. The
validity of that section cannot also be challenged. That
apart, in the instant case, when the delimitation of the wards

79
was made, such delimitation was not challenged on the
ground of colourable exercise of power or on any other
ground of arbitrariness. Any such challenge should have
been made as soon as the final order was published in the
Gazette after objections to the draft order were considered
and not after the notification for holding of the elections was
issued. As was pointed out in Lakshmi Charan Sen case
[(1985) 4 SCC 689], that the fact that certain claims and
objections had not been disposed of before the final order
was passed, cannot arrest the process of election.

25. In this connection, it may be necessary to mention that
there is one feature to be found in the
Delimitation
Commission Act, 1962 which is absent in the
U.P. Act.
Section 10 of the Act of 1962 provided that the Commission
shall cause each of its order made under
Sections 8 and 9
to be published in the Gazette of India and in the Official
Gazettes of the States concerned. Upon publication in the
Gazette of India every such order shall have the force of law
and shall not be called in question in any court. Because of
these specific provisions of the
Delimitation Commission
Act, 1962, in the case of
Meghraj Kothari v. Delimitation
Commission [AIR 1967 SC 669] , this court held that
notification of orders passed under
Sections 8 and 9 of that
Act had the force of law and therefore, could not be assailed
in any court of law because of the bar imposed by Article

329. The U.P. Act of 1959, however, merely provides that
the draft order of delimitation of municipal areas shall be
published in the Official Gazette for objections for a period
of not less than seven days. The draft order may be altered
or modified after hearing the objections filed, if any.
Thereupon, it shall become final. It does not lay down that
such an order upon reaching finality will have the force of
law and shall not be questioned in any court of law. For this
reason, it may not be possible to say that such an order
made under
Section 32 of the U.P. Act has the force of law
and is beyond challenge by virtue of
Article 243-ZG. But any

80
such challenge should be made soon after the final order is
published…”

60. In Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam v. State of T.N. (supra), this Court

dealt with certain interlocutory applications that were filed seeking

directions for compliance with the constitutional mandate concerning

elections to local bodies. This Court dealt with contentions raised by

the parties before it as follows:

“10. It, thus, emerges that before the election process could
begin as per the State Election Commission’s Press
Release dated 2-12-2019, the State of Tamil Nadu
increased the number of districts from 31 to 39 and also
restructured various talukas. However, with regard to posts
of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of District Panchayat
Councils, elections are still sought to be held only for 31
posts. This resultant incongruity has prompted the
appellants to file these applications with prayers to strike
down the Notification dated 2-12-2019; hold elections for the
entire State comprising all 39 revenue districts; and conduct
such local body elections only after completion of all legal
formalities i.e. after delimitation of the newly carved districts.
A specific direction has also been prayed for, to compel the
respondents to first carry out delimitation, reservation,
rotation processes and fulfil all other legal requirements
before notifying or conducting elections of any panchayat at
the village, intermediate or district level.

11. Having heard the learned counsel for the parties at a
considerable length and after an in-depth analysis of various
statutory provisions as well as the constitutional scheme
under Part IX which envisages democratisation of grass-root
level administration, we are of the view that, as per
Article
243-B, panchayats have to mandatorily be constituted in a

81
State at the village, intermediate and district levels.
Article
243-C requires the State, as far as is practicable, to
maintain a similar ratio between the population residing
within the territory of a particular panchayat and the number
of seats allocated to it, across all panchayats in the State.
Further, each panchayat must be divided into territorial
constituencies and per
Article 243-D, seats in proportion to
their population must be reserved for Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes in each panchayat.

12. It is, thus, clear that the constitutional object of Part IX
cannot be effectively achieved unless the delimitation
exercise for constitution of local bodies at all levels is
properly undertaken. Such exercise in the State of Tamil
Nadu must keep in view the criteria for delimitation of wards
prescribed under the Tamil Nadu Local Bodies Delimitation
Regulations, 2017 (formulated under the Tamil Nadu
Delimitation Commission Act, 2017), which criteria must
itself not be contrary to
Article 243-C read with Article 243-
B(1) of the Constitution.

13. Noticing how at the completion of the delimitation
process there were only 31 revenue districts, but despite a
subsequent increase in number of districts to 39, no fresh
delimitation exercise has been undertaken, it is clear that
the State Government cannot fulfil the aforestated
constitutional mandate. There is no identified data
elucidating population proportions and, hence, requisite
reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
cannot be provided for, both in re village panchayat wards or
Chairman/Vice-Chairman of District bodies. We, hence,
have no doubt that the election process as notified by the
State Election Commission on 2-12-2019, in respect of the
newly constituted nine districts cannot be held unless fresh
delimitation exercise in respect thereto is first completed.
The State Government cannot justify holding local body
elections of these nine districts by relying upon this Court’s
order dated 18-
11-2019 [C.R. Jayasukin v. T.N. State

82
Election Commission, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1664] as the
said order itself mandates notification of elections only after
completing “all legal formalities”.

14. The contention of the respondents that the present
proceedings amount to “calling in question an election” and
hence not being maintainable in view of the express
constitutional embargos of Articles 243-O and 243-ZG does
not impress us for the present proceedings are only to
further the expeditious completion of prerequisites of a fair
election. Hence, the following ratio of a coordinate Bench
in
Election Commission of India v. Ashok Kumar, (2000) 8
SCC 216 squarely applies to the present case:

“32. … (2) Any decision sought and rendered will not
amount to “calling in question an election” if it subserves
the progress of the election and facilitates the
completion of the election. Anything done towards
completing or in furtherance of the election proceedings
cannot be described as questioning the election.

(3) Subject to the above, the action taken or orders
issued by Election Commission are open to judicial
review on the well-settled parameters which enable
judicial review of decisions of statutory bodies such as
on a case of mala fide or arbitrary exercise of power
being made out or the statutory body been shown to
have acted in breach of law.

(4) Without interrupting, obstructing or delaying the
progress of the election proceedings, judicial
intervention is available if assistance of the court has
been sought for merely to correct or smoothen the
progress of the election proceedings, to remove the
obstacles therein, or to preserve a vital piece of
evidence if the same would be lost or destroyed or
rendered irretrievable by the time the results are
declared and stage is set for invoking the jurisdiction of
the court.”

83

61. Accordingly, directions were issued ordering the respondents,

including the Delimitation Commission, to delimit 9 newly constituted

districts in accordance with law and only thereafter hold elections for

their Panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels within a

period of 4 months.

62. Shri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General has exhorted us to hold

that this judgment is per incuriam in that it flies in the face of the earlier

decisions of this Court. We find nothing in this judgment as flying in the

face of the earlier judgments of this court. On the contrary, the Court

extracts the ratio in Ashok Kumar’s case (supra) and thereafter

issues directions to the authorities concerned.

63. A conspectus of the aforesaid judgments in the context of municipal

elections would yield the following results.
I. Under
Article 243 ZG(b), no election to any municipality can be

called in question except by an election petition presented to a

Tribunal as is provided by or under any law made by the

Legislature of a State. This would mean that from the date of

notification of the election till the date of the declaration of result a

judicial hands-off is mandated by the non-obstante clause

contained in Article 243ZG debarring the writ court under Articles

226 and 227 from interfering once the election process has begun

84
until it is over. The constitutional bar operates only during this

period. It is therefore a matter of discretion exercisable by a writ

court as to whether an interference is called for when the electoral

process is “imminent” i.e, the notification for elections is yet to be

announced.

II. If, however, the assistance of a writ court is required in subserving

the progress of the election and facilitating its completion, the writ

court may issue orders provided that the election process, once

begun, cannot be postponed or protracted in any manner.
III. The non-obstante clause contained in
Article 243ZG does not

operate as a bar after the election tribunal decides an election

dispute before it. Thus, the jurisdiction of the High Courts under

Articles 226 and 227 and that of the Supreme Court under Article

136 of the Constitution of India is not affected as the non-obstante

clause in Article 243ZG operates only during the process of

election.

IV. Under Article 243ZA(1), the SEC is in overall charge of the

superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of

electoral rolls, and the conduct of all municipal elections. If there is

a constitutional or statutory infraction by any authority including the

State Government either before or during the election process, the

85
SEC by virtue of its power under
Article 243ZA(1) can set right

such infraction. For this purpose, it can direct the State

Government or other authority to follow the Constitution or

legislative enactment or direct such authority to correct an order

which infracts the constitutional or statutory mandate. For this

purpose, it can also approach a writ court to issue necessary

directions in this behalf. It is entirely upto the SEC to set the

election process in motion or, in cases where a constitutional or

statutory provision is not followed or infracted, to postpone the

election process until such illegal action is remedied. This the SEC

will do taking into account the constitutional mandate of holding

elections before the term of a municipality or municipal council is

over. In extraordinary cases, the SEC may conduct elections after

such term is over, only for good reason.

V. Judicial review of a State Election Commission’s order is available

on grounds of review of administrative orders. Here again, the writ

court must adopt a hands-off policy while the election process is on

and interfere either before the process commences or after such

process is completed unless interfering with such order subserves

and facilitates the progress of the election.

86

VI. Article 243ZA(2) makes it clear that the law made by the legislature

of a State, making provision with respect to matters relating to or in

connection with elections to municipalities, is subject to the

provisions of the Constitution, and in particular Article 243T, which

deals with reservation of seats.

VII. The bar contained in Article 243ZG(a) mandates that there be a

judicial hands-off of the writ court or any court in questioning the

validity of any law relating to delimitation of constituency or

allotment of seats to such constituency made or purporting to be

made under Article 243ZA. This is by virtue of the non-obstante

clause contained in Article 243ZG. The statutory provisions dealing

with delimitation and allotment of seats cannot therefore be

questioned in any court. However, orders made under such

statutory provisions can be questioned in courts provided the

concerned statute does not give such orders the status of a

statutory provision.

VIII. Any challenge to orders relating to delimitation or allotment of

seats including preparation of electoral rolls, not being part of the

election process as delineated above, can also be challenged in

the manner provided by the statutory provisions dealing with

87
delimitation of constituencies and allotment of seats to such

constituencies.

IX. The constitutional bar of Article 243ZG(a) applies only to courts

and not the State Election Commission, which is to supervise,

direct and control preparation of electoral rolls and conduct

elections to municipalities.

X. The result of this position is that it is the duty of the SEC to

countermand illegal orders made by any authority including the

State Government which delimit constituencies or allot seats to

such constituencies, as is provided in proposition (IV) above. This

may be done by the SEC either before or during the electoral

process, bearing in mind its constitutional duty as delineated in the

said proposition.

64. Applying the law to the facts of the present case, the first important

thing to be noted is that the constitutional bar contained in Article

243ZG(a) does not apply to the facts of this case. As has correctly

been pointed out by Shri Laud, the judgment in Anugrah Narain

Singh v. State of U.P. (supra) would apply as the Goa Municipalities

Act does not contain any provision akin to Section 10(2) or 10(4) of the

Delimitation Commission Act, 1962 that was highlighted in Meghraj’s

case (supra), providing that orders of the Delimitation Commission

88
have the force of law. This being the case, the first and foremost

roadblock that has been put forward by the learned Solicitor General

has been cleared. No fault can be found with the Division Bench of the

High Court in ignoring any constitutional bar in arriving at the

conclusion that the 04.02.2021 order is illegal and ultra vires the

provisions of Article 243T of the Constitution of India read with

Sections 9 and 10 of the Goa Municipalities Act. On merits, it is

important to note that Shri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General, did

not advance any argument that the reservation of seats for women and

OBCs was in accord with the provisions of the Constitution and the

Goa Municipalities Act. Indeed, even otherwise, we do not find fault

with the Division Bench judgment in its conclusion that a fraction has to

be worked upwards whatever that fraction be, given the mandatory

language of Article 243T of the Constitution which provides for

reservation for women which shall not be less than one-third. Also,

the findings of the High Court on OBC reservation not complying with

the mandate of Section 9(2)(bb) in that in several councils it was below

27% cannot be faulted. The same goes for observations made on the 1

ST seat in Sanguem and non-application of the principle of rotation.

65. However, there can be no doubt that Shri Tushar Mehta is right in

89
stating that assurances given by the Advocate General that the State

Government would not raise the bar of Article 243ZG(b), but would

instead argue that since the election programme was “imminent” and

that therefore, the High Court ought not intervene, cannot alter the

position in law. There can be no doubt that no concession by counsel

can operate against a constitutional bar.

66. However, on the peculiar facts of these cases, this Court is

constrained not to interfere with the impugned judgment under Article

136 of the Constitution of India. This is because of the following special

features of the facts of these cases:

(i) First and foremost, it is important to note that the State Election

Commissioner is none other than the Law Secretary to the

Government of Goa. The whole process of these elections is,

therefore, faulted at the start so to speak as the SEC is not, in

the facts of these cases, an independent body as is mandated by

Article 243K.

(ii) It is important to note that the SEC had itself postponed the

municipal elections twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic raging

throughout the State. On the second occasion, by the notification

dated 14.01.2021, the SEC had itself postponed these elections

till April 2021 or the election date which may be determined by

90
the State Election Commission. Obviously, the expression “or the

election date which may be determined by the Commission”

would indicate a date beyond April, 2021, given the situation in

which the State of Goa finds itself due to the COVID-19

pandemic. It is important to note that the High Court in its

direction contained in paragraph 81(e) directs the SEC to act in

accordance with this notification so that elections are held by

15.04.2021.

(iii) In Dnyaneshwar Narso Naik’s case (supra) and Sujay S.

Lotlikar’s case (supra), solemn assurances were made by the

Advocate General that orders of reservation in wards of

Municipal Councils will be made at least three weeks before the

election programme is announced. The State Government

instead of acting upon these statements, inserted an amendment

by adding a proviso to Section 10 of the Goa Municipalities Act in

which a lesser period was mentioned i.e., a period of at least one

week.

(iv) The Law Secretary’s letter dated 05.02.2021, calling upon the

Director, Urban Development, to issue a reservation order under

Section 10 of the Goa Municipalities Act was to do so “at an early

91
date”. The Director, by an order passed one day before this

communication i.e., on 04.02.2021, with lightning speed provided

for reservation in all 11 Municipal Councils of women/SCs/STs

and OBCs prompting the High Court to observe that due

application of mind could not have been bestowed before issuing

such an order.

(v) All the writ petitions in the present cases were filed between 9 th

and 12th February, 2021 immediately challenging the Director’s

order dated 04.02.2021. None of these writ petitions contained

a prayer that would hold up any election programme. The only

prayer was to strike down the aforesaid order so that the Director

in issuing a fresh order would have to truly and faithfully carry out

the constitutional mandate of Article 243T of the Constitution of

India and the statutory mandate contained in Section 9 of the

Goa Municipalities Act.

(vi) When the High Court issued notice on 15.02.2021 for final

hearing on 22.02.2021, the SEC did not inform the High Court

that vide a note of 05.02.2021 (disclosed for the first time by an

affidavit filed in this Court on 08.03.2021), elections were

proposed to be held on 20.03.2021.

(vii) In a clear attempt to overreach the High Court, the State Election

92
Commissioner, who is none other than the Law Secretary of the

State of Goa, issues an election notification at 9:00 a.m. on

22.02.2021, even before the Government offices open at 9:30

a.m. in order to forestall the hearing of the writ petitions filed

before the High Court, which commences hearing the writ

petitions at 9.00 a.m. 1

(viii) After the judgment was pronounced by the Division Bench of the

High Court on 01.03.2021 and no stay granted, this court,

“issued notice” on 04.03.2021 and stayed the impugned

judgment, the effect of which was to revive the election

programme that was notified on 22.02.2021. Despite this, the

State Election Commission, on this very day i.e., 04.03.2021,
1

It is well settled that actions of the State with oblique or indirect object will be
attributed to “malice in law”. This Court in
Kalabharati Advertising v. Hemant Vimalnath
Narichania Ors (2010) 9 SCC 437 has summarised this as follows:

“25. The State is under obligation to act fairly without ill will or malice— in fact or in law.
“Legal malice” or “malice in law” means something done without lawful excuse. It is an act
done wrongfully and wilfully without reasonable or probable cause, and not necessarily an
act done from ill feeling and spite. It is a deliberate act in disregard to the rights of others.
Where malice is attributed to the State, it can never be a case of personal ill will or spite on
the part of the State. It is an act which is taken with an oblique or indirect object. It means
exercise of statutory power for “purposes foreign to those for which it is in law intended”. It
means conscious violation of the law to the prejudice of another, a depraved inclination on
the part of the authority to disregard the rights of others, which intent is manifested by its
injurious acts. (
Vide ADM, Jabalpur v. Shivakant Shukla [(1976) 2 SCC 521], S.R.

Venkataraman v. Union of India [(1979) 2 SCC 491], State of A.P. v. Goverdhanlal Pitti
[(2003) 4 SCC 739], BPL Ltd. v. S.P. Gururaja [(2003) 8 SCC 567] and
W.B. SEB v. Dilip
Kumar Ray [(2007) 14 SCC 568])”

93
amended the aforesaid notification by extending the time period

for filing of nomination for 5 Municipal Councils from 04.03.2021

till 06.03.2021 between 10:00 hrs to 13:00 hrs. and therefore,

rescheduled the election.

67. Given the aforesaid, the order of the High Court contained in

paragraph 81 of the impugned judgment will be observed with two

changes. In paragraph 81(c), it is clarified that the period of 10 days in

which the Director, Urban Development is to issue a fresh order will be

10 days from the date of this judgment. Also, instead of “15 th April”

occurring in paragraph 81(e), the words “30 th April” be substituted. All

the other directions will remain undisturbed.

68. The most disturbing feature of these cases is the subversion of the

constitutional mandate contained in Article 243K of the Constitution of

India. The State Election Commissioner has to be a person who is

independent of the State Government as he is an important

constitutional functionary who is to oversee the entire election process

in the state qua panchayats and municipalities. The importance given

to the independence of a State Election Commissioner is explicit from

the provision for removal from his office made in the proviso to clause

(2) of Article 243K. Insofar as the manner and the ground for his

94
removal from the office is concerned, he has been equated with a

Judge of a High Court. Giving an additional charge of such an

important and independent constitutional office to an officer who is

directly under the control of the State Government is, in our view, a

mockery of the constitutional mandate. We therefore declare that the

additional charge given to a Law Secretary to the government of the

state flouts the constitutional mandate of Article 243K. The State

Government is directed to remedy this position by appointing an

independent person to be the State Election Commissioner at the

earliest. Such person cannot be a person who holds any office or post

in the Central or any State Government. It is also made clear that

henceforth, all State Election Commissioners appointed under Article

243K in the length and breadth of India have to be independent

persons who cannot be persons who are occupying a post or office

under the Central or any State Government. If there are any such

persons holding the post of State Election Commissioner in any other

state, such persons must be asked forthwith to step down from such

office and the State Government concerned be bound to fulfil the

constitutional mandate of Article 243K by appointing only independent

95
persons to this high constitutional office. The directions contained in

this paragraph are issued under Article 142 of the Constitution of India

so as to ensure that the constitutional mandate of an independent

State Election Commission which is to conduct elections under Part IX

and IXA of the Constitution be strictly followed in the future.

69. The appeals are disposed of accordingly.

Writ Petition (Civil) No. 309/2021

1. This writ petition has been filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of

India by a resident of Margao, Goa, challenging the reservation order

dated 04.02.2021 issued by the Director of Municipal Administration,

Goa, and the notification dated 04.03.2021 which was issued by the

Goa SEC altering the original schedule of elections.

2. Given our judgment in the aforesaid appeals, in view of the fact that

the reservation order dated 04.02.2021 has been set aside and that a

fresh election schedule will have to be notified, the writ petition is

allowed and the notification dated 04.03.2021 is also struck down.

……………………………………..J.

[ ROHINTON FALI NARIMAN ]
……………………………………..J.

[ B.R. GAVAI ]
……………………………………..J.

[ HRISHIKESH ROY ]
New Delhi;

March 12th, 2021.

96

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