Admitting a clutch of PILs that challenged deletion of half a million names in voters' lists in Mumbai and Pune, the Bombay High Court today asked the Maharashtra Government to revise the electoral rolls, but rejected a plea that sought stay on the 2014 Lok Sabha poll results.
The court, however, asked the state to invite suggestions and objections by placing advertisements in three prominent newspapers in each of these cities saying that electoral rolls were being revised. The court made it clear that such revision shall have no nexus with the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections 2014.
The ruling was delivered by a bench of Justices Abhay Oka and M S Sonak, who, however, dismissed another PIL filed by Pratap Gaikwad, alleging missing names in voters' list in Pune and urging a direction to the authorities to include them in the electoral college in the recently held Lok Sabha polls. The judges admitted five PILs, which challenged the deletion of voters from the electoral rolls and kept the matter for final hearing on the point of maintainability. The court also asked the parties to file replies if they wanted to do so, within eight weeks.
The court refused to grant any interim relief prayed by the petitioners that supplementary polls be held in these constituencies, where names of voters were found deleted in the voters' list and allow them to cast their vote. The court also rejected the prayer to restrain the declaration of election results for Lok Sabha polls 2014 and appointing an SIT headed by a retired supreme court or high court judge to hold an inquiry into the deletion of voters.
The judges further rejected the challenge to the validity of Section 23(3) of the Representation of People Act, 1950 and Article 329 of the Constitution of India, which imposes a bar on the court to interfere in electoral matters. The court held that the voters' list be updated in view of the assembly elections to be held later this year and asked the state to advertise in three newspapers each in Pune and Mumbai to inform the people that the electoral rolls were being revised and take note of their suggestions or objections.
Accepting the statement made by the Advocate General Darius Khambata that the revision of electoral rolls for Pune and Mumbai constituencies shall be undertaken at the earliest, the judges said that in pursuance thereof individual applications in the prescribed forms for inclusion in the electoral rolls shall be disposed of in accordance with law, preferably within 30 days from the date of their receipt. The PILs, admitted by the court, were filed by for former IAS officer Arun Bhatia, Ravi Shinde, Sharad Phadke, Bhai Chavan and an NGO called Action for Good Governance.
Actor Amol Palekar and his actor wife Sandhya Gokhale were allowed to intervene in the PIL filed by Bhatia as their names were not found in voters' list during the April 17 Lok Sabha elections held in Pune. The PIL which was dismissed alleged that one lakh people's names had been deleted from voters list in Pune Lok Sabha constituency. The petition alleged that a fraud had been committed by deleting names from the voters' list and sought an appointment of a Commission of inquiry to probe the matter.
The PIL also challenged the constitutional validity of article 329 of the constitution, which imposes a bar on the Court to interfere in electoral matters. It argued that the constitutional rights of the people to vote were taken away by this serious lapse on the part of the concerned officers.
However, other PILs contended that people whose names were deleted from voters' list had a right to vote and care should be taken to include their names whenever electoral rolls were revised. One of them said that over two lakh names had been deleted from the list in Mumbai.