Election commission pulled up by HC, told to hold Suar assembly by-polls

The Allahabad high court has directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to conduct by-polls on the Suar assembly seat in Rampur district of Uttar Pradesh and begin the poll process forthwith. By-polls for seven other constituencies in UP are scheduled on November 3.

The Suar seat had fallen vacant after the Allahabad high court on December 16, 2019 annulled the election of Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Abdullah Azam Khan, the son of senior SP leader Azam Khan, on the ground that he was underage and not qualified to fight the poll in 2017.

Subsequently, the state assembly had on February 27, 2020, notified the seat as vacant.

Allowing a writ petition filed by one Shafeeq Ahmad of Rampur, a division bench of justice Shashi Kant Gupta and justice Pankaj Bhatia said, “The Election Commission of India has not been able to justify as to why and under what circumstances, by-election has not been held on the aforementioned constituency despite the vacancy having occurred in December 2019 and duly notified long back by the state assembly on February 27, 2020. Thus, the election commission has failed to perform its constitutional and statutory duty to hold the by-election for the aforementioned constituency within the time prescribed under Section 151A of the Representation of People’s Act”.

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The court further observed that the will of the people is supreme in a democracy and it cannot be lightly interfered with.

“The will of the people is supreme. It cannot be lightly interfered with. The election commission, under no circumstance, can frustrate the will of the people. This court, which is a custodian of the Constitution, cannot be a silent spectator in a case of this nature where the election commission has failed to exercise its powers in a manner which has the effect of destroying or making erosion into the democratic set up, which is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution,” the court said.

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The petitioner had requested the court to direct the ECI to conduct by-polls on Suar seat. The petitioner contended that while the election was set aside by the high court in an election petition, no interim order was passed by the apex court in the appeal pending before it.

Besides, a vacancy was also duly notified by the state assembly. Hence in this backdrop, there cannot be any justification for the election commission to not hold the by-election.

“By not holding the elections, the election commission has failed to perform its constitutional duty and suppressed the voice of the people who deserve to be represented through an elected representative,” the counsel for the petitioner argued.

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