In a significant ruling dated February 12, the Supreme Court of India upheld the decision to try an election petition filed by CPI(M) leader M Swaraj against K Babu, Congress MLA elected from the Thrippunithura constituency in the 2021 assembly elections, under the Representation of People Act, 1951. Justices Aniruddha Bose and PV Sanjay Kumar concurred that once the High Court found a triable issue under Section 123(3) of the Act, there were no grounds for interference.
Swaraj, who contested against Babu in the 2021 assembly polls, approached the High Court seeking to invalidate Babu’s election, alleging the use of corrupt practices, specifically appealing to Hindu voters based on religion.
Babu, in response, raised preliminary objections before the High Court, challenging the authenticity of the documents submitted by Swaraj. Despite this, the High Court proceeded with the trial of the main petition against Babu. Dissatisfied with this decision, Babu approached the Supreme Court.
The Division Bench of the Supreme Court considered the High Court’s findings regarding the distribution of slips by Swaraj and his election agents, which depicted a picture of Lord Ayyappa and voiced an appeal to vote for Swaraj. While the alleged statements made by Swaraj did not per se amount to a corrupt practice, using religious symbols to gain an advantage in the election constituted such a practice under the Act.
Addressing Babu’s preliminary objections, the Supreme Court observed that the requirement under Rule 212 of the Rules of the High Court of Kerala, 1971, for authenticated copies was meant solely for the use of the Court and did not affect the filing requirements under Section 81(3) of the Act. The Court dismissed the argument that Rule 212 should be combined with Section 81(3), emphasizing that statutory provisions should be interpreted as they stand without introducing additional requirements.
Regarding the objection about furnishing true copies, the Court noted that Swaraj’s assertion lacked substantiation, as no precise averment was made regarding the authenticity of the copies. As the copy of the petition in question was neither presented before the High Court nor the Supreme Court, the objection was deemed meritless. Consequently, the Supreme Court dismissed Babu’s appeal, affirming the trial of the election petition against him.