In a landmark decision, the Karnataka High Court affirmed the legitimacy of the promises made by the Indian National Congress in its election manifesto during the 2023 Assembly Elections. The ruling came in response to a petition challenging the election of Congress MLA BZ Zameer Ahmed Khan from Chamrajpet Assembly Constituency.
Justice MI Arun, delivering the court’s verdict, emphasized that while the promises may be debatable in terms of financial viability, they cannot be deemed as ‘corrupt practice’ under the Representation of People Act of 1951. The court highlighted that the Congress manifesto pledges, including free electricity, financial assistance to women heads of families, food grain distribution to below poverty line households, stipends for unemployed educated youth, and free bus travel for women, are to be construed as social welfare policies rather than corrupt practices.
The petitioner, Shahshanka J Sreedhara, contended that these promises amounted to corrupt practice, warranting the annulment of the winning candidate’s election. However, the court clarified that corrupt practice, as defined under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, applies only when actions are undertaken by a candidate, their agent, or with their consent. Mere declarations of policy intentions by a party do not fall under this purview.
In its deliberation, the court underscored that the evaluation of the soundness of policies and their impact on society is a matter for voters to assess, rather than a ground for challenging election results. The ruling affirmed that political parties have the right to articulate their policies and that such declarations, even if involving the provision of benefits, do not constitute corrupt practices.
Given that the challenge to Khan’s election was solely based on the contention that the Congress manifesto amounted to corrupt practices, the court deemed the petition devoid of merit and rejected it. The legal representation involved Senior Counsel Pramila Nesargi along with Advocates Sunil MV, Priyanka G, and G Devarajegowda for the petitioner, and Advocates Sriyuths Shaik Ismail Zabiulla, Gokul Kumar SO Chandra L, Vijay Kumar YH, and Mohamed Rizwan Ahamed representing the respondent.
The court’s ruling not only upholds the democratic process but also reinforces the importance of political discourse and the freedom of parties to articulate their policies. By delineating between genuine social welfare initiatives and corrupt practices, the judgment sets a significant precedent for future electoral disputes, reaffirming the fundamental principles of democracy and electoral integrity.

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